distance learning 4/21

Around the world, universities and schools have made the transition from physical classes to completely online classes through distance learning. BGSU is one of the hundreds of schools that has made this change. 

Schools have started using Zoom, a video conference application used to hold virtual classes, meetings, etc. Jim Osborne, anatomy and biology teacher at Anna High School, has had some difficulty shifting his teaching style.

“For the first couple of weeks, it seemed like I spent as many hours learning how to use Zoom, write online assessments and create face-to-face interactions with students,” he said.

Since Osborne’s science classes are a lot of hands-on lab work such as dissections, using microscopes, Bunsen burners, chemicals and other various lab equipment, students probably do not have these expensive items at their homes; therefore, making it impossible to do these labs through distance learning. 

Students have had difficulty making the shift as well. Sarah Layman, a nursing student at the University of Cincinnati, said she was originally excited to have a couple extra weeks off. She thought it was only going to last until mid-April. 

“When I learned that we were shifting to online classes for the rest of the year, I was met with a lot of anxiety, stress and sadness. I was forced to move out of my apartment that I considered home and had to move back to my parent’s house until the middle of August, leaving all my friends and relationships I had in Cincinnati behind,” she said. 

Layman said she is still expected to log on via a virtual medium like Zoom or Webex at the times she would have had class at. She claims it’s hard to learn and concentrate through this style of teaching.

“I do not have a designated space that I can go to study or ‘go to class,’ so I often find myself getting distracted, which then adds to my stress of feeling like I am falling behind in my academics,” she said.

Layman said being a nursing student is more stressful than ever. She does not have the resources available to her and her schedule is all over the place. She said she usually has clinical hours that she goes into the hospital to get real-world experience. She said these clinical hours have shifted to online simulations. 

“These online simulations are nothing like the experience in a hospital, so I have had to adapt my learning style from hands-on learning, to now just watching and interacting with a simulation,” she said. 

Ryan Holley, BGSU professor, said he has had some major challenges switching his courses over to online. He said he tries to incorporate active learning tactics in his courses, but it is rather difficult to do without human interaction.

“One of my classes includes a long-term group project in which teams work with a local service provider (The Cocoon Shelter or Humane Society). I have had to cancel the project and come up with an entirely new course structure and delivery method,” he said.

Osborne has had to do a similar transition by having to cancel certain items in his courses and come up with new ways to drive home the same message.

Holley claims he is overrun with emails from students and co-workers alike, making it almost impossible for him to answer them all in a timely manner. 

“I have become more of a tech/Canvas trouble-shooter than an instructor in many cases,” Holley said. 

Teachers are forced to learn how to teach online, as well as be able to help the students if there are technical issues. Students are forced to learn away from a physical classroom and hope the technology doesn’t fail them.

Osborne said it is disheartening from a teacher's perspective. He wants to be able to fairly teach all of his students and be there with them.

“Without lockdown browsers and me being with students while doing assessments like tests/quizzes, I suspect they are cheating ... a lot,” Osborne said.

Osborne, Holley and Layman all agree the sudden shift to distance learning came with many challenges, but they all know they will get through this. 

 “It's still a struggle to teach this way, especially as a science teacher who needs kids to be in a lab, but I'm doing the best I can within the parameters of this pandemic,” Osborne said.


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