Students and faculty working to adjust to online learning transition


Marli Hoskins, Assistant News Editor

First-year Pre-Physician Assistant major Erin Luffy began the spring semester spending time in group study rooms with her friends. Now, Luffy is studying in isolation due to COVID-19 putting a halt to face-to-face classes at Marywood.

“This is not what I signed up for,” said Luffy. “Not only am I starting to struggle in classes that I was doing well in, but my mental health is seriously starting to go downhill.”

Luffy is one of many students now adjusting to remote learning. Early Childhood Education and Special Education major Rachel Yackobowitz is another first-year student who said she is struggling with the social and educational transition.

“I just feel like I’m not retaining anything with this new style of learning,” said Yackobowitz. “I am paying $33,000 a year to watch videos and teach myself enough of the information to get by.”

Luffy said the biggest issue she has faced is communication with professors.

“I came to Marywood because they had small class sizes which meant more one on one time with professors. Now, instead of talking to a professor after class about my concerns, I have to send emails with super late responses,” said Luffy.

Yackobowitz said she has dealt with Moodle before, but doesn’t have as much experience with live online classes.

“All of my classes are now happening on Zoom and other face time apps like that and it’s getting draining. Sitting in front of a computer screen all day is not the same and I’m just not used to it,” said Yackobowitz.

Students are not the only members of the Marywood community dealing with challenges in the transition to online learning. According to Associate Director of Educational Technology Services Katherine Fisne, the transition was a challenging process.

“Normally online courses take anywhere from 50 to 100 hours of prep work in order to be successful and obviously with everything happening so quickly we didn’t have that kind of a time frame,” said Fisne.

Fisne said that while classes were cancelled for the week of March 16, faculty were offered 26 hours of training in educational technology. The training assisted professors in not only recorded and live classes, but with Moodle as well.

“The biggest challenge that we were faced with was the number of faculty members with no Moodle experience because previously they were not required to have online components to their classes,” said Fisne. “Even those who were a bit familiar with it struggled because there is a big difference between assignments being handed in on Moodle and the interactive content we have now.”

Fisne said faculty members have been updated frequently with tips and resources as well as a weekly recorded training. Professors also have access to Marywood’s online academic continuity hub located on the home page of Marywood’s website.

“The academic continuity hub has a list of resources for instructors, step-by-step guides and general checklists for not only faculty, but for Marywood students as well,” said Fisne.

Fisne said that while the courses can’t be picture perfect due to the timing and circumstances, the faculty is trying their best to figure out what is working and what needs to be changed.

“Everyone is still trying to navigate the new landscape which can be tough,” said Fisne. “We’ve chosen to narrow focus on what tools we are supporting so that it can be easier for students to learn with similar methods from class to class.”

In order to organize resources and materials for online learning, the Department of Educational Technology Services rolled out a survey on April 2 to get a better idea of how the technological portion of the transition is going

With the possibility of COVID-19 affecting the fall semester, Fisne said the standards of online learning will shift if it has to continue for another semester.

“If we are online in the fall, we’ll have more time to build these courses online from the ground up,” said Fisne. “We will be able to train deeper, have more opportunities and change from this quick implementation we are seeing now to more of a focus on online pedagogy.”

According to Associate Professor of Architecture Kate O’Connor, the transition of moving her architecuture studio online has been going well.

“The first semester of our first-year foundation studio is very tactile, so the students are constructing things; however, in the second semester they start to integrate a digital platform into it,” said O’Connor. “We’re still holding on to that and we found this wonderful delivery we can do it with called Mural. It’s almost like a whiteboard where all students can pinup they’re work on this board and then everyone can look at it and offer feedback.”

O’Connor said that in her opinion, being able to work with her students despite the circumstances is wonderful and that so far, she has only received positive feedback from students.

“It’s just being very innovative and having the willingness to be very fluid and flexible for really the best interest of our students and really that’s what Marywood is about,” said O’Connor. “I know there are some anxieties but together we’re going to get through this.”

Despite Marywood faculty’s efforts in the transition, students like Luffy and Yackobowitz are concerned with questions regarding refunds, housing and the fate of the fall 2020 semester.

“I know they are doing their best and I understand that nobody knows what’s next, but I’m just worried about next semester. I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” said Luffy.

Yackobowitz said she is hoping to get back to Marywood sooner rather than later, claiming that the social learning environment isn’t the only thing she’s missing.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I live near campus and sometimes I get sad and drive through campus at night crying,” said Yackobowitz. “Marywood was my home because it had everything I loved in one place and now that’s gone.”

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Twitter: @mhoskinstww