Jun 12 2020

The Remote Learning Diaries: Addressing Online Learning Challenges and Solutions

A Washington State University student examines the complications she faced during remote learning.

My name is Elora Irby. I am 20 years old, and I am from Ellensburg, Wash. I study at Washington State University with a focus on international business and marketing. I am currently taking five courses at the business college and two courses at the honors college as well. 

All of my courses have switched over to remote learning, but the adjustment has been different for each course. For some of my courses, all of the content and homework assignments are on Blackboard or available through online textbook resources. Some of my courses make viewing livestreams of lectures mandatory while others do not. 

Amid the pandemic, the technologies that I have been using most are my phone, headphones and laptop. The only additional program I am using for remote learning is Zoom. But my use of the school’s online portal and learning resources, including Blackboard and Top Hat, has increased immensely.

Remote Learning Concerns — and Answers

I was initially concerned when WSU first announced it would be switching to remote learning. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to focus on my courses and that my grades would slip. However, as I increased my use of the online resources mentioned above, my fears were somewhat put to rest.

Some students may abuse the independence that comes with remote learning by not keeping up with attendance and coursework. I would encourage professors to enforce mandatory attendance and to ensure the quality of the content is the same as what we would be learning in a face-to-face environment. 

While remote learning can invite more external distractions, it also offers the potential for interactive and fun virtual engagements. The situation professors were placed in due to COVID-19 was not ideal; there was not much time to prepare or learn the ins and outs of remote learning technologies. But there is time for improvement for future online courses. As universities become more accustomed to online learning platforms, I believe the experience for students will also be made better. 

Although my overall remote learning experience has been positive, there are still ongoing challenges. Zoom bombing, for example, has been a distraction in the remote classroom environment, making it difficult to focus during live lectures. This could be prevented by making Zoom meetings private and disabling the screen-sharing function for students.

Another challenge my university has encountered is trying to find effective ways to assist students who do not have access to laptops, internet or the software required to complete certain projects and assignments. The university has reached out to students on several occasions to assess their needs. Although they have established initiatives such as computer loan programs, this is still an issue for some students. But I feel confident that WSU will put in the resources to resolve this issue by next semester.

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

Improving Remote Learning for the Future

Perhaps the most obvious challenge of remote learning is the decrease in engagement and attendance from students. I have heard concerns from faculty members and students in various departments that the overall quality of learning has decreased during this time. How can we better enhance student and professor engagement, attendance and relationship-building? How can we ensure that remote learning does not take away the value that face-to-face learning can provide?

As I look toward the future, I believe that lessons learned during this time will serve to advance further research and development of online courses — as well as resources and tools that can enhance the experience of remote learning.

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