Reflections on Remote Learning from Our Ambassadors

Friday, May 15, 2020

In this post, we decided to create space for our Weingarten Ambassadors to share their experiences with and reflections on remote learning. To set the tone, we echo, to all our students, the sentiments of one of our Weingarten Ambassadors:

“I have been impressed and inspired by how many of my students have been working diligently and maintaining their positivity while navigating through this turbulent time.”

As a center, we are humbled by the wisdom that our student colleagues have shared and are motivated to continue working for the best interest of the student community, now spread around the world!

Significant Challenges Connected to Remote Learning

It’s Tough Adjusting to “Home”

On the whole, our students noticed that remote learning is challenging because of various aspects of their current environment. One student noted that “studying at home for [a] whole day is not effective because there are so many distractions in our rooms”. “I’ve also noticed that my attention, motivation, and overall engagement have suffered”, another student replied. While many students have mentioned that it is tough to stay motivated and productive during this time away from the structures of campus life, one student also mentioned that “the biggest challenge for me has been acclimating back into my family members’ routines. As a senior who spent most of my college summers away from home, I really haven’t lived with my parents since high school.” Another student mentioned that they can only complete homework in the evenings due to distractions in the home during daylight hours. Technical challenges have made the transition to remote learning particularly difficult as well: “I think the biggest challenge with online teaching and learning is that some people don’t have access to [a] stable internet connection”. All of these comments bring us to our second section: the disparity in student experiences.

We All Don’t Hurt The Same

Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced a transition that has disproportionately impacted many students. One student remarked the challenge for herself with “having to work and continue on knowing the severity of the pandemic, the constant spread of misinformation, and the lack of understanding from many… I can’t help but think about all of the vulnerable populations who are disproportionately affected and suffering as a consequence.” We are not always aware, but graduate students are among some of the most affected students in our community. For instance, one graduate student only had two days to leave campus earlier in March. “I eventually found a place to sublease and things are getting back on track now!” Even students’ future plans have been halted. “I know many of my peers’ start dates have been pushed-off or rescinded entirely.” For some students more than others, these changes are extremely disruptive.

But We Still Have To Perform

Remote learning has also presented challenges with respect to academic work. “Labs are closed, so we have been working from home; most people in my lab are using this time to write papers or pick up new skills (e.g. computational chemistry skills). I finished my coursework last year, but luckily had enough data to focus on writing papers from home now.” Not every graduate student is so fortunate. As a TA, one student shared that “the transition to remote teaching has been quite challenging”. Similarly, another student mentioned the difficulties with completing coursework remotely:

Virtual schooling has taken away the parts of my coursework that I enjoyed the most and relatively excelled at (i.e. working with others and hands on project work).”

Nonetheless, students and instructional teams are finding ways to work through these changes to their courses. One ambassador mentioned, “I have no doubt in my ability to overcome…” and our ambassador who serves as a TA shared about her instructional team. “Our first online exam was a little bit frustrating for everyone involved, but the second online exam went much more smoothly.”

How Can We Remain Resilient?

Trying is Surviving

For those of you who might identify with the challenges above, our students have provided the following suggestions for working through this time and beyond:

  • Plan, organize, and prioritize. Each semester, I write down all of my assignments and due dates for all of my courses on one sheet of paper. As I finish the assignments, I highlight them. This has been even more helpful since going virtual as I can’t rely on reminders from my peers and professors as much as I used to.”
  • Create [your] own online study groups and update [your] learning process/outcomes once a day. I have [done this] and find it quite helpful.”
  • “Reach out to professors, TAs, and other individuals for support. Become familiar with your resources early on, and don’t be afraid to use them.”
  • Schedule a virtual appointment with [a learning] instructor for some personalized advice on improving learning efficiency.”

So Embrace Yourself

…remember that we aren’t simply working from home. Instead, we are trying to work at home during a pandemic and a time of crisis and uncertainty for many; it’s okay to not be as productive or motivated as before.

It is quite the challenge to estimate how resilient you are before times of struggle come, but our students have all shown that something deeper than a GPA is moving them forward. They are pursuing something greater than their degrees. Each student carries a purpose with them in their hearts and, while some are heavier than others, this purpose is what has allowed so many students to maintain resilience through the end of this semester.

As we head into Summer Sessions 1 and 2, please know that the Weingarten Center is here to support you. We exist because you do. We are captivated by your journey!

By Staff Writer: Gabriel Angrand, STEM Learning Instructor