Story by MATTHEW GRANT
Remote learning and Coronavirus. The two seem to go hand in hand, but what is the actual reality of remote learning and how has it affected some University of Utah students?
As the public works to combat and work around the current state of the world, students across all platforms have begun to adjust to remote learning. Meanwhile, professors have committed to transform their curriculum and course schedules to create a safe and educating way of learning without being physically present in the same classroom as their students.
This has been made possible by virtual classrooms, and online participation groups or activities.
Essentially the material would stay the same, but the process in which we learn it would be different in the way that it is virtual and from our own homes.
Jack Geil, from Reno, Nevada, is currently a senior at the U studying finance.
Geil studied in Sydney, Australia, in spring 2020 as part of the Eccles Global Learning Abroad program. [https://eccles.utah.edu/students/global/] Geil described his time in Australia as nothing short of exceptional.
Geil’s time abroad was cut short and forced him to travel home six weeks early because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Geil was required to finish the semester 100% online.
“After leaving Australia I was already in quite the funk and disappointment, and on top of that we were required to learn and adapt to a completely new type of learning. It really took the fun out of it,” Geil said in a FaceTime interview.
Geil, who typically takes five courses a semester, said he acknowledged his past struggles with remote learning and opted to take a lesser schedule during the fall of 2020. Geil noted that he almost deferred the semester as a whole, before recognizing that he was only a semester away from graduation and he thought it would be best to push through.
Geil described his current semester as a time of growth. “I’ve learned to be comfortable from working in my own home. I have always needed the library, a classroom, or a place null of distractions to properly address my school work — not anymore,” Geil said in an email interview.
Among other things, Geil said it has allowed him more time to address other things in his life, such as the gym, golf, and friends, which he says is all necessary for himself to succeed in school.
Another student was Sofie Arrivillaga. She graduated from Park City High School and is currently a communication major.
Arrivillaga said in a FaceTime interview she has typically taken up to one online course a semester and enjoys them as “an escape from campus.”
However, Arrivillaga explained how this semester was different from her online classes in the past. Citing her contemporary dislike of the current circumstances, she said it seems as if the classes she is now taking online were not designed to be taught that way. The transition has been less than easy, Arrivillaga said.
She said she believes her focus has mostly remained the same, though admits she has at times floundered due to the lack of in person and scheduled engagement. Arrivillaga said specific classes in particular have caused this. She said “quantitative research and studio classes have been most difficult” for her this year.
Arrivillaga compared the quality of her online education to in-person instruction.
“I don’t think my education has reached the same level as previous semesters because I felt that a lot of my curriculum is all essentially busy work and not necessarily work that is expanding my knowledge,” Arrivillaga said.
Arrivillaga said her online courses lack student responses and live debates, and instead focus primarily on lectures and note taking to prepare for a specific test rather than actually educating and understanding the curriculum.
Levi Pompoco is a senior studying business at the U and aviation at Cornerstone Aviation in Salt Lake City.
Pompoco, who is typically consumed between school, flying, and work, has said he has found peace and availability with remote learning. It offers him a more flexible and relaxed course schedule while being able to fly more than any past semesters.
“Remote learning allows me to do everything from home and gives me more time to fly and work,” Pompoco said in a FaceTime interview.
Jakob D. Jensen is the associate dean for research in the College of Humanities and a professor in the Department of Communication.
Due to his administrative role, Jensen typically only teaches one course a semester. Jensen, who has also never offered an online class before, said in an email he “decided to add COMM 3580 because I wanted to create a new, and fun, experience for students during the pandemic.” COMM 3580 during the fall of 2020 was an online based lecture class that showed how marketing campaigns differentiated during a pandemic.
Jensen said that the lack of live student response can cause teaching to feel very static. Noting that he typically reacts to students and enjoys being shaped by their thoughts, he wrote, “That is [harder] to simulate in online education.”
He added, “Staying focused while listening to lectures. Staying on track,” are some of the effects of online instruction.
Jensen said that though it is different, he believes it is best to keep moving forward. He said he would continue going to school if he were in a similar position. “In the short run, I think online education can get the job done. In the long run, I don’t think it is the same experience. I really think smaller courses are hurt by it.”
“I think it is easier to replicate the experience of a large lecture class,” Jensen added. “I also think you have to adapt. I really felt like the fall semester started to click.”