Sheila Orlando, a senior double majoring in Mathematics and Secondary Education, provides us with our final Student Fellows blog of the 2019-2020 academic year. We asked Sheila to provide her perspective on the shift to online learning we have all undertaken in response to our current health crisis.
As March 27th approached, I looked at the dress I had bought for spring ball sitting in my closet. This was an event that I did not take advantage of attending my junior year, but that was no problem—I had senior year to enjoy it, after all. As I stared at my dress, I realized that I would not be dancing and enjoying a night with my peers but rather would be spending another night in quarantine.
I know that throughout the next couple months I will feel this way many times. I will miss what was supposed to be my last day student teaching, our Senior Week night at Foxwoods, and our May graduation. All of these events were things that I was looking forward to and as these days approach it becomes clear that we will not have the opportunity to see these moments and make these memories. As my roommates and I Zoom one another to check in and be together I regret not taking advantage of the last nights I had living with my best friends. I already miss the nightly talks and laughs I had each day with my direct roommates.
The emotions are high for us seniors as we face our worst fears; missing out on our last classes and our last few months to spend with our roommates, and those who have made our college experience all that it is. But missing friends and special events are not the only challenges students face right now. Many of us are also unsure of what we should be expecting from our school work to finish up their spring 2020 semester. From speaking with my peers and evaluating my own experience, I have come to realize that navigating the final weeks of the semester successfully will require students and faculty to work together on some shared actions: keeping open communication, having clear directions/expectations, and having empathy for one another. Keeping these three priorities in mind will help all members of our community remain on track with our education, and help one another get through this time of crisis.
Quickly switching to an online platform after completing half of a semester is a very strenuous thing to do. Students are already used to their schedules and professors are aware of how they are going to best communicate the material to the students. For both students and professors, this transition is challenging. Something that students will be looking for over the next few weeks is the ability to have open communication. Because professors will not have open office hours as they would before, students are going to require aid in different ways. Students will need to have the ability to email their professors and quickly get in touch with them, or be able to set up zoom meetings. This will allow students to get their questions answered and ensure that professors are having the chance to provide all the information they can to their students.
I have personally been able to reach out to my professor and speak with her about my experiences during this time and ask the questions that have been building up for me. She was happy to speak over Zoom after the allotted class time has ended, and answer emails trying to clarify what I have asked as quickly as possible and to the best of their ability.
Along with open communication, it is going to be very important during this time for the directions for assignments and expectations for the course to be extremely clear. Clearly stating what needs to be accomplished during the course will help students understand how to remain on top of their school work and be successful. The more explicit the directions are, the less questions the students will have, and the faculty and students will be on the same page moving forward.
It would be very helpful for students to be able to see examples of what is expected of them. A detailed assignment sheet for the students to reference as they work would be nice to use throughout the duration of projects and assignments. Professors could also record a short video in which they review the assignment sheet orally, and students can review that video to answer questions they may come up with when working. Along with this video, they could create an open discussion forum in which students can post their questions. If all students can add to this discussion then they can receive answers to their questions and can check if the question that they had was already asked and answered by someone else.
Even with open communication and clear expectations, a change this drastic to students is going to be difficult. Students and faculty alike are going to get frustrated. Technology may not work correctly, and faculty may be confused about what is the best course of action to take in the moment. Recognizing that all members of our community are going through the same adjustments and confusion as to what this pandemic means for our school year, we can bring ourselves together to take each day, and each class, one at a time until we are all back together again.
So much is being left up in the air right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s all negative. As a community, we are learning to lean on one another in ways that we have not had to before.
For the senior class, our focus is still on completing our courses and hopefully getting to attend a commencement ceremony where we will receive the diploma we have worked diligently for four years to earn. At this time, we are all anxiously waiting to find out how the remainder of the year, and the future of this disease, will play out. After the first couple days of classes, I am keeping the faith that this too shall pass, our Assumption community will soon be together again, and we will be there to help one another through this stressful and difficult time.