By Saundra Shillingstad and Sheryl L. McGlamery
On Wednesday, March 11, the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 was officially a pandemic. The outbreak of the coronavirus prompted universities to make radical changes in scheduling and delivery of classes. An announcement was made on March 13 that the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) would allow students to take a 2-week break from campus and online classes. UNO started spring break early, March 14, and the semester resumed March 30. Course delivery shifted at UNO to become online for the remainder of the spring and summer semesters.
The disruption of going from face-to-face class meetings to online course delivery affected both students and teachers across the nation. For those of us who had never taught a course online, and for students who hadn’t participated in an online course, the learning curve seemed very steep. My colleague and I got busy getting ready to work and teach online. We had 2 weeks. The preparation evoked a bit of fear and anxiety in both of us. However, as we soon realized, we had nothing to fear.
The UNO College of Education, the Teacher Education Department, the Office of Digital Learning, and the Center for Faculty Excellence provided faculty and staff with numerous workshops for remote and online learning in an effort to prepare faculty and staff with guides for moving courses online as well as workshops for advanced support features and resources. We participated in the workshops, acquired the skills to navigate the online tools available to us, and were ready when classes resumed March 30.
During the 6 weeks of online course delivery, my colleague and I touched base with each other frequently. Our conversations often turned to how the students were adjusting and feeling about the move to online course delivery. Before the semester’s end, we asked students the open-ended question: What are the pros and cons of online course delivery via Zoom? We collected and reviewed their responses regarding the abrupt change from on-campus course delivery to online course delivery via Zoom. Here is what the students had to say:
- “I love not having to travel to campus or worry about getting from building to building safely.”
- “Taking the course from home was the only way I could have done it with my kids out of school.”
- “No commute!”
- “Having the course delivered in Canvas (which we already use) made the transition to online pretty easy.”
- “I loved having access to the recorded lectures. Instead of having to send an email if I had a question, I could quickly access the video and review what I had forgotten or needed clarified.”
- “I love ‘anywhere’ learning. I had to move back home (my family lives in California). I am grateful we were able to finish the class online.”
- “The struggle is real. It is sometimes hard to understand the content and stay focused.”
- “Large-group discussions are difficult. I am still trying to figure out how to insert oneself into the conversation.”
- “Recorded class sessions were available for review when I did not pay attention.”
- “Classmates not muting their microphones was a major distraction”.
- “People! Put your kid down, turn off your TV and music, stop looking at your phone, get out of bed, stop slurping and eating—you are driving me crazy!”
- “Classmates need to figure out how to be professional when ‘live’ on Zoom (does everyone realize I can ‘see’ what you are doing?). PAY ATTENTION!”
- “It stressed me out when my Internet service was unreliable or weak.”
- “I disliked it when I would lose connection and have to figure out how to rejoin the class session.”
- “I missed conversing with my classmates, something that is SORELY lacking in this online environment.”
- “We miss out on networking with classmates and finding friendly faces that we can connect with in upcoming semesters.”
- “Missing the socialization period before and after class, as well as the small talk with professors. I hate it. I miss in-person.”
- “Missing out. Don’t get the same ‘face-to-face’ contact that I would if we were in person.”
The students’ feedback leaned heavily on areas that could be improved, or what they viewed as challenges. We asked the questions to gauge and monitor not just how we as faculty were feeling, but how the students felt. To us, the student’s perceptions matter as we move forward during uncertain times. Our desire is to provide the students with high quality learning experiences, in and outside of the classroom.
Dr. Shillingstad is a Professor in the Teacher Education Department in the College of Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Research interests include teacher induction, assessment, and program assessment. Saundra is a member of the Eta Omega Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.
Dr. McGlamery is a Professor of Science Education in the Department of Teacher Education at University of Nebraska at Omaha. Research interests include teacher induction, assessment, multicultural education, and teacher development.