Three of our ChE 330 students have shared their stories about how they are coping with the new remote learning. As you will see, they all had struggles adjusting to the online format at first but they have managed to adapt and are finding ways to learn in spite of some obstacles. They appreciate what their professor and instructors do to make this work for all of the students as they try to help the students feel as though they are part of the class even though they cannot meet in person.
I had a hard time adjusting to remote learning at first but I am feeling better about it with the support of everyone involved with the class. Professor Lenert sent out information about resources for learning at home and the rest of the teaching staff has done everything they can do to help us to make the transition smoothly. “They have shown we really aren’t alone in this adjustment, everyone is doing it and everyone has to work together for it to be successful,” says Rachel.
Prior to the transition I attended office hours 3 or 4+ times a week, every lecture, discussion, and Sunday review sessions. I think the teaching staff has done a great job putting together a Google Hangout system for office hours that encourages student collaboration (very important for this course), while still offering help from the GSI/IA/Tutor. In fact, I have suggested this method to my other classes because it does work so well. In addition, many of my classmates and I video chat throughout the week outside of office hours to ask each other questions and keep one another focused.
Piazza has been a great study tool! Not only has it been a place to get clarification, but also I have found answering questions is a great way to ensure I understand the material myself and challenges me to help fellow students understand the material.
I am someone who spends a lot of time on campus in the library and small study rooms and prefer to keep my home space as a sanctuary to relax away from assignments and deadlines. So I do struggle to find the motivation to do schoolwork at home. Fortunately, the teaching staff has been incredibly responsive so learning new material hasn’t proved too difficult/different and Professor Lenert remote lectures have been good so I really haven’t seen a difference in how I learn.
With remote learning, I can have my own schedule. For example, before online classes started, I had a 5-hour gap in between my first class of the day and my last two classes of the day. Now I can watch lecture recordings for the first half of my day and work on homework or other studies during the second half. In that aspect, I would say it is working out much better than I had expected.
I do still prefer in-class lectures as I find there are far fewer distractions and much more interaction that forces us to obtain a solid understanding of the material before leaving the class (e.g. iClicker questions, group discussion), while Professor Lenert does ask questions during the virtual lectures, I think it’s more engaging in person. Aside from that, my cat is happy I am home more!
ChE 330 has given me many tools and resources to still be successful in the course, including the weekly recap that reminds us of where we should be in the lectures and highlights important due dates/course information. Thermodynamics is a class I enjoyed prior to the transition and I think has helped tremendously. I’m also incredibly grateful for the organization this class has compared to others classes.
Even though I am adjusting to remote learning very well, it’s definitely is a very different learning style. I thought the University as a whole was well prepared to make the switch to remote learning because all my classes already had lecture recordings in place and online platforms like Canvas and Piazza where students can engage with each other and instructors. Personally, I am fortunate to have fast wifi and a quiet spot in my house where I can concentrate so I’m not experiencing some of the frustrations and roadblocks other students might be facing.
I still feel very connected to my instructors and fellow students through Canvas, BlueJeans office hours, Piazza, and the ChemE student Group Me. I’ve found that when I’m confused about a concept or if I can’t access a recording, there are probably at least 10 other students facing the same challenge so it is very helpful to easily be able to find those other students and go about resolving the problem.
I do enjoy talking to instructors and other students face-to-face and, while that is still somewhat available through Bluejeans and Google Hangout, it is much harder to facilitate. However, I’ve found that I often have fewer distractions at home than I had at school. There are no club sports, basketball games, club meetings, and other social/extracurricular events to attend. My new distractions are dogs, sleep, and Netflix, but I’m not having trouble managing those so far.
Remote learning is working better than I thought it would. I’m understanding the material just as well and don’t feel at all that my courses have become less rigorous. While I spend more time with my textbooks and independently learning material rather than immediately asking an instructor in class or going to office hours with a question, I think that this method sometimes results in a more solid understanding of concepts.
Remote learning makes it more difficult to learn content. I’m adjusting by frequenting Piazza and asking my instructors more questions in lecture and via email. Learning to communicate with other students and instructors online has certainly been an obstacle, but through repetition and consistency, I feel that every week gets better.
My instructors have done a great job of making themselves available online for aid, and I now semi-regularly join video calls with other students for aid on our weekly problem sets.
Returning home has put me back in the Pacific Standard Time Zone, so my morning lectures and discussions are much earlier than they would have been on campus. I try to retain some normality by getting up earlier so I can still attend lectures and have a chance to ask my professors and GSIs questions in real time.
It is much more difficult to concentrate on studies while at home. Being in a different environment and not being able to leave home all play a part in forcing me to adjust my new situation while we are in the middle of a semester. I’ll find that some days, despite being at home, I won’t see my family for most of the day as I try to isolate myself to help me focus on my work. The lack of face-to-face interaction is noticeable in my daily life, and I miss the academic atmosphere I have on campus.
One positive from online learning is that it is easier to connect with my peers for aid on my homework. With everyone stuck at home, there are far fewer conflicts that prevent us from helping each other.
I wish Professor Lenert would come back to teach live. It is easier to follow along and learn in lecture when he speaks directly to us and doing so decreases the amount of time it takes to clarify a topic if I have a question and can immediately ask him.
Not all our students fared so well, unfortunately. Some students went home to additional responsibilities supporting their families through the crisis and had to withdraw from their courses, others went back to homes without adequate technology to switch to online learning, and some struggled just to figure out how to make it home.
The College quickly started a COVID-19 Emergency Fund to assist students through the transition. To date they have awarded students over $60,000, including providing students with funding for laptops, and paying for students who were studying abroad with funds to pay for emergency airfare, among many other needs. (https://scholarships.engin.umich.edu/) The college also sent students modems to improve their home internet connection. To support the college as they assist students with continuing funding needs, visit https://www.engin.umich.edu/giving/emergency-fund
Also read other stories at the College of Engineering Victory Garden . This program is working to find solutions for students who encounter difficulties as they try to attend classes remotely.
Glossary of Teaching/Learning Technology Terms
BlueJeans is a cloud video conferencing. Users can hold live video calls, webinars, conference calls, and online meetings.
The faculty in all ChE courses use Canvas. Students typically upload assignments to Canvas where the instructors/ GSIs grade the assignments digitally. Canvas is a replacement for C-tools (many of you probably remember it).
GroupMe brings group text messaging to every phone. It allows users to send direct messages and group messages from mobile devices. You can also use the app as a one-stop shop for interacting with other.
An iClicker is a radio frequency device that allows a student to anonymously respond to questions the instructor poses in class. This lets student and instructor quickly know how well you understand the lesson material.
Piazza is a chat room designed to simulate real class discussion. Students can post questions and collaborate to edit responses to these questions. Instructors can also answer questions, endorse student answers, and edit or delete any posted content.