The Need For Normalcy & Human Interaction In The Remote Learning Period

The remote learning period that Penn State is about to enter is bound to bring its fair share of adjustments and growing pains. Some, like technical difficulties, we can predict pretty comfortably. Others remain to be seen as classes resume.

One thing that will be noticeably different and likely pose a challenge is losing the daily interactions with professors. Sure, there’s always instructors you can’t wait to finish a class with, but at the same time, during college, you come across so many incredible people who guide your learning and growth.

Part of the beauty of going to such a large university and finding that one professor is that, suddenly a place so large and at times hectic, feels a lot smaller and a lot more like home. Whether it be a professor for a huge lecture in Thomas 100 or a small classroom inside Osmond, the connection can be built anywhere on campus, and anytime in your duration as a student.

It’s important to note, however, this relationship certainly goes both ways. For economics professor Jadrian Wooten, losing that is going to be one of the hardest parts of this remote learning period.

“I tend to have a very close personal relationship with my students, knowing where they’re going after school, whether they’re going to grad school,” he said. “The challenging part for me is that I’m not going to get to see them. I’m not going to get to see those graduating seniors.”

These difficult times mean not only needing to adjust to Zoom features, online assignments, and tests, but also not sitting in your favorite seat in your favorite lecture hall, settling in, and just focusing on learning without life’s distractions in the way, even for just an hour.

Wooten is still going to film his lectures and make the assignments asynchronous to accommodate those who live in different time zones, and in general to give students the opportunity to choose the structure of their online learning. His live lectures will feature polling questions through a specific Zoom feature, and the class will have the opportunity to pause, think, and discuss the questions live.

“My goal is to honestly try to keep things as normal as possible. None of my on-campus students signed up for five to six online classes. Nobody signed up for that,” Wooten said. “So for me, what I want to try to do is essentially make the class component synchronous.”

Flexibility and adaptation during this time is crucial, however, students are still certainly up for some difficult times ahead. Change is hard especially when college provides students with such a structure and schedule that can certainly be taken for granted.

“I really think given how much stuff has changed so quickly for these students that I really do believe being available during the time that they’re supposed to have class and making that feel like a class as much as you can, I think that’s really important,” Wooten said.

This is the path that many Penn State professors are instructed to go down, having synchronous class sessions to help create senses of normalcy and familiarity in this time of uncharted territory.

It’ll take some adjustment but should work itself out over time, however, it’s not going to be the same as what you’re able to get in the classroom. There’s no replacement for that human element, the bonds that develop, and what professors can do to help someone who might be struggling or in need.

“I’m not worried about the education part. I know a lot of faculty are freaking out right now but it’s just a scramble,” he said. “I think once we get past these first couple days we’ll settle in, we’ll know how to do it. Students will figure out Zoom. We’ll learn how to do stuff on Canvas.

“I think the part that’s going to last longer is the fact that Penn State is a home for a lot of people and a chance to get away from whats going on in their normal home, and now they’re not getting that chance to get away. That’s the part that scares me the most.”

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a senior early childhood education major from "right outside of Philly" - or in exact words, from 23.0 miles outside of Philly. She loves all things Penn State and has been a huge Penn State gal since before she could walk. Send her pictures of puppies, or hate mail at [email protected]

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