A Student’s Perspective: The Transition to Online Learning

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Katherine Morris, FCRH ’22, is double majoring in digital technologies and emerging media, and mathematics. She is the current communications intern for Fordham IT.

The transition to remote learning has, at times, tested the mental fortitude and patience of Fordham students and their teachers. But Fordham’s faculty have embraced new and existing technology resources to make the process as seamless as possible for students. Faced with a variety of virtual education resources, each of my professors selected the ones they felt would best support their course. As a result, no approach is the same, but each one has been effective. Here’s a report on how my professors took my classes to the virtual realm. 

My Introduction to Communication and Culture course, taught by Prof. Broad, relies heavily on class discussion. Blackboard Collaborate, with its robust synchronous communication and collaboration features, allows Prof. Broad to continue our in-class discussions online without losing much momentum. During our regular class time, Prof. Broad livestreams his lectures alongside a slide presentation. Students ask and answer questions and participate in class discussions using Blackboard Collaborate’s “raise my hand,” “chat,” and “polling” features. I personally find Blackboard Collaborate keeps me engaged with my class and provides a sense of community among students.

The numbers: Many Fordham faculty adopted Blackboard Collaborate for their course. Before March 11, the average number of sessions a day on Blackboard Collaborate was 120 and the average number of unique users was 175. After that date, usage jumped: the average number of sessions a day was 317 and the average number of unique users was 1373.

Prof. Jookyung uses prerecorded videos for Microeconomics Analysis as a way to almost perfectly translate our former face-to-face meetings to digital learning. Just as when we met in person, she provides our class with an outline of the weekly course content. However, instead of filling in these notes together in the classroom, we access videos that she has posted in Blackboard. In these instructional videos, she annotates, fills in blanks, and draws graphs on her outline, and, at the same time, provides commentary. I follow along and add notes to my own outline, which I’ve printed out. Prof. Jookyung has two young children who are also going to school at home, so having an asynchronous set up for the class makes parenting and teaching much easier for her to manage. This class is content heavy, so I find that her prerecorded videos are fantastic. If I do not understand something, I can replay the video or contact Prof. Jookyung, who has office hours on Zoom. Though this structure doesn’t allow me to feel as connected to my classmates as I do in a synchronous class, the video lessons help me understand the course material at my own pace.

The numbers: Comparing February 2020 to March 2020, the average page views (i.e., activity) per day in Blackboard went up 21 percent from the same time last month.

Tasked with the challenge of translating a math course to online instruction, my Multivariable Calculus II teachers, Prof. Poor and Prof. Roy, have experimented with a few different tools that replicate the interactive whiteboard lecturing used in our math class. Ultimately, they decided on live streaming through Zoom. When Prof. Roy teaches, she uploads pictures of handwritten notes to an iPad app, and then, during class, shares her iPad screen using Zoom’s screen sharing feature. She annotates her notes with different pen strokes and colors, and offers further explanations and additional drawings, graphs, and formulas. Live streaming this course is especially important because I can ask questions by virtually “raising my hand” or using the group chat. These online learning resources allow my math professors to preserve the guided and interactive structure of in-person math courses. 

The numbers: Zoom, which launched at Fordham in mid-March of this year, quickly became the University’s web conferencing tool of choice. Since its roll out, the Fordham community has averaged between 800-1200 Zoom meetings each week.

All my professors originally designed their courses for in-class delivery, and I appreciate how they embraced the potentially foreign and challenging digital learning environment to continue to effectively teach their students online. Their visible efforts to refine their course delivery methods motivate me to stay on top of my studies. Thanks to the wide variety of software resources and the dedication of Fordham IT, the Provost’s Office, the deans, and others in the Fordham community, my courses have remained educational and meaningful in these unusual circumstances.

 

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