May 19 2020

The Remote Learning Diaries: Reflections on How to Improve Online Learning

A Temple University student contemplates how to improve remote learning for next semester.

I realize we are all in the same boat as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, but having to move back with my family in my crowded Illinois home has not been an ideal situation for me, and school work has been challenging to keep up with. Teachers are still giving out the usual number of assignments, but it is difficult for me to focus and learn in a virtual classroom setting because it is less intimate and less hands-on. 

At home, I do not have access to the same amount of resources as I had back at Temple University. My printer is slow and outdated, there are no tutoring sessions for classes, and I cannot go to the library to get peace and quiet. Fortunately, I have relied mostly on my 2018 MacBook pro to complete all my school work. While I’m doing homework, I usually use an additional Lenovo monitor so I can have both screens to work on. Dual-screen display is a key aspect to being efficient when doing work so I don’t have to keep flipping back and forth between pages. 

Why Zoom Makes Remote Learning Reliable

Among my classes, 3 out of 5 utilize zoom to virtually meet at regularly scheduled class times. Zoom has been a big help to my online classroom experience because of its simplicity and reliability. Zoom offers so many different functions¬ — including breakout rooms, a raise-hand button, a safe-driving mode and more.

It has definitely been the technological highlight of my virtual classroom experience. However, it’s still not the same as a traditional classroom. When I meet in person with an instructor, I feel a lot more engaged and focused compared with being in an online classroom. There are also fewer distractions and more cohesion in a traditional classroom. It definitely seems like professors have had to scramble to convert their curriculum to fit an online model. 

Temple is facing a big challenge in how to compensate students as a result of campus closures due to the pandemic. A couple schools in other states have gone as far as refunding students up to 40 percent of their tuition, and it looks like Temple is following suit. It will issue reimbursements for housing, tuition and meal plans, along with parking and other amenities. The university also announced that students will have the ability to select pass/fail as an option. This means that students can either keep their letter grades for this semester or have pass/fail on their transcript, which won’t affect their GPA. It’s basically designed to help students whose grades might have slipped as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

MORE ON EDTECH: Here's the best Zoom remote learning tech tips.

Moving Forward, Best Practices for Remote Learning

If this remote learning format continues, I’d like to see some changes that could improve student online experiences next semester. I believe students are looking for more uniformity and structure in a remote learning environment. For example, all classes should use Zoom across the board. My current experience instead has been that some instructors use it, and some do not use it. Reducing the number of platforms and applications that students need to bounce back and forth on will ensure remote learning is less chaotic.

Another issue is that, at schools across the board, there is a lack of integrity in testing when kids take exams at home. Some teachers have tried to implement honor codes to encourage kids to not cheat when testing. However, this is not really working because there is already so much focus on getting the grade instead of actually learning in the course. I recognize that all of these problems cannot be solved at once, but I hope colleges will address these issues if we find ourselves in a remote learning situation next school year.

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