L-R, from top row: Camille Rinon, Jazel Faltado, Madeline Lauener, Sarah Monds, and Cecilia Sierra Heredia

How are students and instructors adapting to learning online?

September 18, 2020

FHS lecturer Cecilia Sierra-Heredia spoke with students in her HSCI 483 class to reflect on their online learning and to provide advice for those that are beginning or continuing to learn virtually. 

Cecilia Sierra-Heredia:

The most challenging part of teaching remotely was not having the feedback I get in face-to-face (f2f) lectures from looking at my students’ body language. I left it up to each student whether they wanted to use their cameras or not, and most chose not to. However, I found that the chat & audio options were good sources of info about how they were taking in my lectures, for some people chat is a good option to participate in class.

Using the discussions as a way to interact with the students and as an assessment tool was something new we tried. Weekly discussion posts were part of the final grade and tailored to the content presented in the lecture, students had some days to prepare their post and truly make it relevant for their experiences & interests.

I tried to keep my students engaged by explicitly acknowledging their hard work & their increasing knowledge in the topics we had covered. When teaching f2f, I have more opportunities to do this verbally or informally; with all of our interactions being online this term, I found ways to share my positive feedback with the whole class, both in my recordings and in my posts on Canvas.

The most successful part of teaching remotely was the feeling of building a unique learning community - where everyone found ways to interact and share their points of view & knowledge - in the middle of the pandemic and through remote instruction.

As for any advice I could give aside from the academic goals of each class, keep in mind the potential for networking with your peers & instructors. Even if we are in separate locations, we will interact with each other throughout the whole term and there are many opportunities to build friendships & connections.

Camille Rinon:

Online learning is really about discipline. There is more time to do work and other activities, but work (school)-life balance is often difficult to achieve. To properly manage my time for coursework, I set a time each day. For example, 8am to 3pm from Monday to Thursday is all about studying and assignments, while outside that time I focus on other unrelated things. Also, by setting a fixed schedule, I find that I'm less likely to procrastinate or feel overwhelmed. Once in a while, it's best to change your work environment such as studying in the balcony or at the backyard, in order to avoid mental fatigue.

Sarah Monds:

This was my first time taking online courses and I've found that being organized and maintaining motivation are key. I have a printed calendar on my desk, so I have a quick visual representation of assignment due dates. It is colour coded by class and I refer to it frequently for peace of mind/reminders. I also started using a digital check-list that allows me to enter tasks I would like to accomplish for the week and organizes them by due date. This acts as another visual aid but it is also very satisfying to check off tasks as I complete them. I also regularly check my email and Canvas notifications so that I don't miss any updates or assignments.

Jazel Faltado:

Aside from keeping a planner and writing out to-do-lists for tests and assignments, the strategy I always go back to is the Pomodoro method: having no distractions, and giving your fullest attention to a given task for a short amount of time. With the Pomodoro method you would break down the 60-minute study session into shorter sessions (e.g. 20-minutes) with short breaks in-between so it feels more manageable (i.e. 20-minutes of study x 3 instead of 60-minutes). So, if I find myself struggling on a paper, I tell myself that I only have to focus for 20-minutes. After the timer is up, I can choose to power through with another 20-minutes or take a break. Once I get started, I find a flow to my work and the task that I set out to do isn't as bad.

Madeline Lauener:

The main strategy I use to be academically successful while completing online learning is through making use of effective organizational methods. In my agenda I will specify which days I will study for exams/quizzes, complete my online discussions, work on assignments, and complete the weekly readings. This helps de-clutter my mind, and decrease stress regarding the completion of all my assignments, and ensures I am allotting an adequate amount of time for completing each task. Further, this "weekly check-in" method allows for some flexibility in my week, as my home life and work/volunteer schedule differs.  With use of these organizational methods I am able to make the most of online learning!