UCC students are now juggling multiple course delivery methods including face-to-face, hybrid and online. Education has become similar to a tech training program with students learning how to navigate live Zoom lectures, recorded Zoom lectures, Panopto interactivity, recorded tutorials, recorded lessons, online discussion boards and the Canvas learning management system.
Karrie Johnson, a UCC business management student, is apprehensive about the amount of change. “My phone is constantly going off with notifications from Canvas; it got to be too much so I turned my notifications off.”
Another student has had complications navigating tutoring appointments because he had 1500 emails in his student account and could not find the appointment confirmation email.
“I have an extremely disgusting amount of emails to sort through; it feels like looking for Waldo,” says AAOT student Rachel Arceo.
Atreayu Pinard, another UCC student says, “The amount of emails I get is overwhelming.”
Students are continuously experiencing technical difficulties such as programs crashing, applications failing to operate as expected and internet outages. Alecia Merker says, “Then there are the internet glitches, there is nothing worse than someone talking, and you only get some of the conversation.”
Students are experiencing problems but are also receiving many benefits from the technology implementation.
Some classes are being presented live with student synchronous interaction, which then is all recorded on Zoom and uploaded for students who are absent or wish to review compared to the traditional hear it once and go home lectures. Students are able to regain some familiar ground in the live Zoom sessions because of breakout rooms with social interaction. In The Value of Video Communication in Education, S Ann Earon says, “This replicates the common in-person pedagogical proactive of breaking the class into small groups.” Breaking into separate groups allows students to verbally communicate their ideas and compare their understanding to that of their peers in an environment that is less stressful for some students. Students are able to do this from the comfort of home.
“When I go to class it’s what am I going to wear, who am I going to sit by, when should I ask a question,” Eve Elmore, a UCC student-athlete, says.
If all members of the group contribute to the conversation, it can be a great way for students to further explore what they have learned, but if students remain silent it deteriorates the value to all members involved.
Online courses, on the other hand, utilize asynchronous Zoom recordings that the teachers prepare on their own without live input from the students. These recordings are often much shorter and more directed to one topic. Students will have more of these recordings to view. Prerecorded Zoom lectures offer students fewer opportunities to ask questions or discuss their thoughts. “They still lack valuable opportunities for casual social interaction,” says Robert D. Austin of Harvard Business Publishing. Turns out, other students feel this way too. Elmore says an online class is such a struggle because it is harder to ask questions and get more help than in person. “Any person who didn’t have anxiety before definitely has it now.”
To replicate some of the social interactions students would have received during a face-to-face class, online and hybrid courses have introduced discussion boards.
Discussion boards are an online forum where students write about prompts designated to create conversation. The lack of face-to-face communication may cause students to lose the desire to engage in discussion boards. Austin says, “Students may not enjoy these types of discussions; they can feel forced or unnatural.” Instructors in their syllabus statements are expressing hope that discussion boards will create conversation about the topic at hand and create an opportunity for students to further develop the concepts covered in class. Teachers and students have said that bridging the gap between what discussion boards currently are and what instructors want them to be would bring increased social interaction into the class that many students need.
Another way colleges are trying to increase effective communication between instructors and students is their implementation of virtual office hours. Creating an opportunity for students to virtually connect with an instructor has shown promise for students participating in sports, students who must commute to and from campus, as well as students who are struggling from time to time. During times of sickness, students are still able to connect with the instructor and receive feedback and instruction on how to proceed instead of being left behind. They share a similar format to what is being used in businesses right now creating real-world applications from their experiences. “Since video conferencing is now as simple as making a phone call, virtual office hours can be set up instantly allowing teachers and students to meet on a more regular basis or as needed to respond to a question or solve a problem,” says Austin.
Although students have benefited from Zoom they have also experienced trouble adapting out of it. “This year is so much harder because it’s half and half; it’s not just one or the other,” Ally Winkler, a health science student says. “I got so used to a routine last year, and now I have to change my whole technique. It’s really stressful.” Winkler says she is good at math, but math online is different than in-person and difficult to pick up. “It’s so much harder than I ever thought it would be,” she says.
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