By: Jimmy Lynch (Loyola Sophomore)
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, instructors from all levels have had to teach virtually throughout the first semester of school, which has come with many successes and struggles.
Loyola University Chicago announced on July 13 that the university would plan on taking the fall semester online. Since then, there has not been much of an indication that the university will go back in person for the spring semester, especially when considering the uptick in cases across the country. However the school is considering welcoming back some students with on-campus housing for the spring semester.
When it comes to online learning, there are strengths and weaknesses. Teachers and students can log into class anywhere, no longer needing to worry about the commute to the classroom anymore. However, due to spotty internet connection, a lack of an understanding of technology, and an inability to connect with students, finding the good of online learning can be challenging.
Mary Lynch, a Chicago Public School music teacher at Mount Greenwood, has faced more technical challenges than teaching the class. She said, “The internet connection has dropped more than a few times at home for me, and a few times I have recorded videos only to find out they were not saved properly.”
Just managing technology isn’t the only issue for teachers on all levels. Finding a way to reach students across the monitor has been a big issue. The lack of communication between students and teachers is apparent at all levels.
Loyola Professor, Irena Kaplan, found teaching online to be more challenging than in person. She said, “It is almost impossible to gauge if the students are following me, if they have any concerns, or if they are even in the same room as their laptops.”
Trying to gauge if students understand a concept has been a constant struggle for teachers. One reason students are participating less is the fact that the class is available for them whenever they want.
Professor Kathy Horton, who specializes in accounting at Loyola, has enjoyed getting a chance to talk with students individually thanks to breakout rooms over Zoom. However, not all students are coming to class. She said, “I know the sessions are all recorded, but just watching a recording does not allow the student to interact with their fellow classmates and me.”
The interactions within the classroom are very beneficial to the learning process for many students. These interactions are being missed in some cases due to the online environment. Creating an open dialogue within the classroom to openly discuss concepts students are struggling with is very valuable.
Mariana Rasinariu, a member of the Mathematics department at Loyola, has had an essential goal this semester with her students. She shared her wants “to create a community in my classes and help all students succeed in my classes.”
Teaching and spending time at the computer all day can be stressful for both students and teachers. Even turning on the news and seeing what is going on in the world can also cause a lot of stress, and dealing with that stress can be challenging.
Katie Ragen, who teaches at Lincoln Park Elementary, spent some time in a vacation house in Indiana with her family to disconnect from the world a little while still teaching. She believes “being able to go from teaching to closing the laptop and walking along the beach or going for a bike ride is a great way to relieve stress.”
Luckily for all teachers and students, there will come better ways to conduct online learning with more time. Practice makes perfect. The difference in online education quality from March till now is impressive, and it will only get better with more practice.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Loyola Professor Joseph Heiney put in a lot of time preparing his notes and practice assignments for his students, and next semester will only be better. “I’ll be more confident carrying out some of the approaches I developed this semester.”