As students during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all had our struggles to adapt to a new learning method. From difficulties figuring out how to use the platform for online lectures, to issues with the internet connection, to lack of access to personal learning devices or even the internet, all this has added to the emotional struggles of trying to continue with our daily lives amid a pandemic. Let’s face it, it was frustrating enough to try to understand a topic during in-person classes, but remote learning raised the level of difficulty.
When speaking with my friend Wesam, she mentioned that it is particularly difficult to understand subjects like physics, not to mention actually learn what she needs during laboratory. Another friend, Jeremy, mentioned he’s had some difficulties with his algebra and trigonometry class, as he cannot contact his professor to ask questions about the content. Both friends agree that, however frustrating, they’re aware their professors are also having a hard time adapting to remote learning and are doing their best.
We already know our experiences and difficulties as students in adapting to remote learning, but what is the professors’ perspective about teaching during the pandemic? I decided to ask professors about the feelings and experiences with remote learning, here are some accounts on their experiences with teaching during the pandemic.
Professor Fern Luskin, who teaches Introduction to Art Honors, says, “Having to contend with learning how to use Blackboard, while at the same time converting my lectures to an online format has been one of the most intense and stressful times of my life, especially because I lost someone I knew for ten years to COVID-19 and have been worried about my students who had fallen captive to this disease. I have never worked harder in my academic life because instructors were only given a week to transform our classes into an online form.” She also shared that, before this term, her lectures existed only in spoken form, “The only thing I had ever written down for my students were bullet points on my PowerPoints.” Besides having to write out entire lectures, Professor Luskin says she had to combine them with images, as her field is art history. She says, “In the classroom, I can simply point to the details the students need to examine carefully. But in the online version of my course, I have had to insert arrows pointing to these details, as well as text boxes labeling them. This has been especially challenging and time consuming when teaching architecture because so many architectural elements must be clearly identified so the students can easily understand a building’s structural system of support.”
Professor Lee Boyar, who teaches Principles of Accounting II Honors, says he has made an effort to deliver as much of the college experience as possible for his students. He adds, “I purchased video editing software, a writing tablet, and a professional subscription to Zoom.” He expressed that, even though the first class sessions were challenging as he grappled with new technology, it has become more natural. “My students have been patient and helpful as I acquire new skills and adjust,” he adds.
Both professors have been contacted by students struggling with their classes. Professor Boyar says his students report having a hard time staying focused and remembering when assignments are due. He mentions, “A few even forgot to attend our Monday morning session when classes resumed following Spring break!” However, he says it is understandable, as we are all experiencing similar difficulties. He also recommends using a calendar or other organizing tools, as being organized reduces stress and makes it easier to accomplish goals.
Professor Luskin shares the struggle of some of her students when Blackboard would not “allow” them to finish taking their quiz. “When this happened during my evening classes after Blackboard support had already shut down for the day, this brand-new Blackboard user was left on her own to try to solve the problem,” she mentions.
However challenging, there are also some positives. Professor Luskin mentions that even though preparing new material for her class has been difficult and time-consuming, there are several advantages to doing so, “For example, most art history textbooks only include one or two photographs of each image, and they don’t have arrows pointing to details in the images. I can include numerous photographs as well as images that are not in the textbook. Nor do these textbooks usually show two works of art side by side for comparison, as I can do in the PowerPoints. Something else I’ve included in all my courses as a result of being in the throes of a pandemic, is accounts of historic plagues.” She also mentions that teaching remotely has inspired her to offer an online section of the Introduction to Art course for the first time, as she believes it will benefit students whose work schedule makes it difficult to take classes in person.
Professor Boyar says, “I am thankful to have a rewarding job that I can do from home. I don't take it for granted.” He also mentioned he is particularly proud of publishing the Honors Journal, for which he is part of the committee. “The president of the college said in doing so we had modeled perseverance in the face of enormous challenges. Most of the credit goes to the student editors, Samantha Brown and Veronica Martinez, and to our authors. It was extra work at a difficult time, but that is why the issue symbolizes the pride we feel in the Honors Program and the college. I don't know if I'll remember the 2019 issue in five years, but I'll always remember the 2020 Honors Journal,” he shared.
Whether we are students or professors, we can all agree there is no substitute for the interactions we have during in-person learning. However, we must remember everyone is going through hardships and facing similar challenges during this unprecedented event. Now more than ever it is important to be understanding, empathic, and kind because we are in this fight together.
Author’s Note: I would like to thank all professors and fellow students for sharing their experiences and feelings in this article.