UA STUDENTS, PROFESSOR GIVE UPDATE ON DISTANCE LEARNING WOES

University Of Alabama

The University of Alabama transitioned from traditional classrooms to distance learning this week. Like many other colleges across the state, the Tuscaloosa campus is currently closed to most students and staff to help curb the COVID-19 outbreak.

One instructor and her students describe how they’re dealing with the change from face-to-face interactions to learning online.

“I think that the platform makes it pretty easy to engage,” Nathan Stephenson, a senior studying journalism and creative media, said. “I think when you have a lot of people on Zoom at one time, and people don’t have headsets, you can get weird audio feedback or things of that nature.”

Stephenson said he and his classmates are still working out the kinks when it comes to classroom sessions on Zoom.

“It’s kind of like a regular class dynamic,” he said. “But there’s just that disconnect; like, I can look side to side in my room at home. It’s a little strange. But it does work.”

While some students are settling into the uncharted routine of distance learning, others say it will take some time to get used to – especially when using new programs like the video conferencing tool, Zoom.

“There were a couple of technical issues that we were figuring out,” said Montana Maniscalco, a senior studying journalism and creative media. “Some people, their audio would cut out or their Wi-Fi would lose its strongest signal.”

For some students, learning outside of the classroom is a challenge. One of the biggest factors is being pulled from a familiar routine.

“Being in this very uncertain time, and a lot of people like myself have been taken from their environment they’ve been living in for four years,” Maniscalco said. “And kind of reworking how they get motivated, how they get productive and how they stay in those mindsets.”

Students aren’t the only ones having to deal with change. UA faculty and staff are having to rework their teaching styles and course work to fit the new normal of distance learning, like creative media professor Maya Champion.

“It did not take the place of the energy of the classroom,” she said. “But everyone was excited to see each other. We definitely missed that comradery.”

Champion said the online learning format comes with new challenges for her as a teacher, and for her students.

“I think they were all, their morale was low, and their spirits were low,” Champion said. “Teaching anything creative, it’s hard to push through low spirits.”

She said so far her classes have gone well, but she and her students need time to get comfortable with being out of the classroom.

“At this time, kind of early on in the online game, it feels like the classroom isn’t replaceable,” Champion said. “It might feel differently later.”

Alabama colleges and universities are not the only schools transitioning to distance learning. Public K-12 schools began e-learning starting today.

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