May 27 2020

The Remote Learning Diaries: Adjusting to Entirely New Online Learning Schedules

A senior at North Carolina State appreciates her university’s efforts to make remote learning viable.

The sudden transition to online learning has been a bit of a roller coaster here at my university. On March 11th, what feels like years ago, every student at NC State received an email from our chancellor informing us that spring break would be extended an extra week, without raising alarm about the severity of COVID-19 and the impact it would have on our university. Surrounded by my friends at the time, it felt like a cause for celebration. But as the situation rapidly evolved over the coming days, and even hours, I quickly learned that it was anything but. 

Students were told not to return to campus, lectures were moved online, and we watched the world fall apart from our living room couches. 

In order to prevent a failed attempt at deploying a one size fits all solution, the university gave its faculty the freedom of continuing their courses in the manner that they see fit.

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On Dealing with Suddenly Redesigned Courses

With entirely restructured courses, students were had to adjust to a new schedule as if it were the first week of the semester — except this adjustment came in the middle of midterms instead of during syllabus week.

Some of my courses have been modified to be led via Zoom, and some have omitted lectures altogether. Some professors have begun using email as their only means of communication with students, and some have created new websites for their courses. Exams have been altered in format and delivery method, and additional coursework has been assigned to better fit remote learning. In my major, science technology, labs are a major part of our learning. Moving these courses online required a major change in curriculum.

Because I’m a spring semester senior, the majority of my remaining coursework consists of final projects originally intended to be largely collaborative. With students forced to relocate from campus, it has been increasingly difficult to work together as individual schedules, access to internet connection and priorities have shifted for many of my peers and instructors. While this was a learning experience, it prepared us to enter a workforce that will inevitably see a shift to more remote working.

The transition has not been any easier for faculty, I’m sure, as many have spent their careers leading courses in person and have never had to use the remote learning materials they were forced to quickly pull together. I think students and faculty members, despite their hard work, would agree that the learning experience has been wounded because of the rapid shift to distance education.

Assisting Students with the Rapid Transition

I am very proud of our university’s commitment to assisting students without access to proper technology or an internet connection. Beyond that, they have worked to help students with families who have been financially burdened because of the pandemic. The sense of community we’ve seen has been a light in a very dark time.

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In an ideal world, this transition would have gone more smoothly. I would have like to have seen better access to training for remote learning materials for faculty and students, and a more uniform system of course delivery. However, I understand that we are not in an ideal world, and I appreciate our university’s efforts. We’re all just trying our best to adjust to this new normal.

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