We asked students and faculty how they were adjusting to online learning and what they had learned about themselves in the process. Their answers, occasionally abbreviated, are below.
Stories from Students and Faculty
Desiree Naugle, Freshman Cybersecurity Major
March 30, 2020
Online learning has been a little tricky. The first week was rough because I had to check emails and blackboard double the amount that I normally would. Once we began to get in the swing of things, however, things began to seem okay. I am disappointed that we had to move online because I actually really love coming to campus and seeing my professors and other students. As for the course work, some assignments have been more stressful than others. This week has been tough because I had about four papers due at practically the same time. Though, because of my determination and motivation, things get done; they always do. The things that have really been bothering me the most are just being forced to stay inside and feeling like I’m not getting as much of out of the classes as I could if I was physically in the classroom. It is still nice, however, to at least see and hear my teachers over video chats. I have very good relationships with my professors and enjoy talking to them in and outside of the classroom. While the video options are nice, I do not get the extra benefit of face-to-face communication.
In observing myself as I transition through this difficult time, I focus on the fact that it could be worse for me. I feel bad for those that are seniors because their time is far more difficult than mine. As a Freshman, I have time to catch up and do more as the years go on. I have also learned that sitting inside all day is detrimental to my motivation. It is sad that the sunny weather has finally blessed us with its presence, yet no one can really enjoy it just yet. All this said, I have adjusted well and I know we will make it through this. I truly admire this school for all that it does for us.
Ryan Savitz, Arts and Sciences Faculty
March 26, 2020
I'm adjusting to online teaching and social distancing the best I can. I had never taught online before, so I gave myself a crash course in technology and online pedagogy the weekend of March 14th. I'd also like to thank all of my colleagues who volunteered their help in this endeavor.
I've learned a lot about myself during this time. First, I learned that I'm more technologically competent than I thought I was. More importantly, I learned how great my students and colleagues are. I really miss them, now that I can't see them in person every day. I can't wait to see everyone on the other side of this!
Kristen Acosta, Arts and Sciences Faculty
March 26, 2020
The adjustment to social distance and online learning is ongoing, and I believe will continue in that vein until my last final exam is graded. Each day presents a challenge which is a surprise for me because I have been blessed to teach online for over 10 years. So, the challenge is not teaching or organizing online, it is the continuous battle with the internal guilt of, "Am I teaching them everything I possibly can?”.
The fact is that face-to-face time gives all of us, students and teachers, what we crave – human interaction. It is needed and necessary for learning, for bonding, for sharing of experience. So, in that thought, I feel that I am focusing more on maintaining community and human interaction than I am on the overall learning of specific facts.
I have held face-to-face meetings through Zoom almost every day, and I have watched students cry, laugh, and share their stories. I have seen the change in their faces as we got back to our normal "classroom banter." This is what I have learned – we all need it! Focus on the human need and let the academic need follow it. Give them a place to vent, a place to share, a sense that we are all feeling the loneliness, the stress, the overwhelming sense of "when will this end."
I have found myself living in "survival mode" most days, and I have heard this similar sentiment from students. How can I respond to this? I have found the following to be my response, not just to my students, but to my own children and husband (a high school teacher trying to teach over 300 students online). "We do the best we can do each day and move on.” I have learned that that is more than enough, and it is all okay. We have the gift of time. I have learned that God is working in this pandemic so amazingly. And I believe wholeheartedly that His blessings will be more abundant than we can even imagine.
Maria Traub, Arts and Sciences Faculty
March 26, 2020
Switching to different teaching formats very quickly is the new normal. In teaching foreign languages, we need to see and hear our students. Blackboard Collaborate facilitates that. Each online program has its fixed structures of presentation. I use Zoom as a back-up tool. For example, I have a Directed Study student who cannot hear me when using Collaborate. I now use Zoom for instructing and testing that student. In Foreign Language we have oral as well as written tests and exams. Zoom is handy if there are technical issues with Collaborate.
Online courses take lots of careful planning and meticulous design. We are all cast into the adventurous world of quickly continuing the work of teaching and learning in as seamless a way as possible. We should realize that things will not be perfect or go as we would wish, but it is the way it is under these extraordinary conditions.
I wish everyone, students and professors alike, good success in this new adventure!
Laura McLaughlin, Education Faculty
March 25, 2020
Adjusting to online learning/teaching was an easy adjustment for me. In all of my classes, I already utilize technology and have students listen and respond to lectures outside of our class time using VoiceThread. This allows me to be able to flip the classroom and spend more time in class doing activities and having discussions. I also have included a lot of project based and service-learning experiences within my classes.
What I have been doing more is incorporating synchronous learning so that I can meet with my students virtually at the same time. In my face-to-face class, there are always projects to present. So, this is a bit challenging. But after talking to my class last night, they will be presenting online during a Zoom conference. They will record the puppet show they were going to do ahead of time and share it with the class.
For every class I teach, I always use Google to create a class folder where students share their work, collaborate with one another, and can access resources. This is something I will continue to use. I recently had one of my students contact me and ask me about using VoiceThread. The student was going to use it to engage the students in the school in which that student teaches. So glad that student had an experience with this tool in my class prior and knew that this would something that could work in a personal experience.
I have learned that I am flexible, and that the most important thing for me is to make sure my students know that I am there to work with them and help them through this. I think integrating the synchronous experiences is really important so that they can ask me questions, see my face, and I can see them. I have also learned that I need to spend more time utilizing stress-reducing tools such as meditation and mindfulness during times like this.
Tammy Feil, Education Faculty
March 25, 2020
The biggest adjustment for me is not seeing my students and colleagues. I love being in the classroom with my students and engaging them in discussion and hands on activities. As a professor and advisor, I miss my day-to-day interactions and conversations with students outside the classroom. Switching completely to the online learning environment has not been too difficult for me since I use it regularly in conjunction with my face-to-face classes. I have also taught online only classes. One exciting thing that has come out of this for me is finding some really great resources to use during this time and in the future when we’re back to a regular class format. I feel some of the resources have allowed me to spice things up a bit. I think this has been difficult for all of us in different ways. I am relying on my Secular Franciscan vocation and the beautiful prayer sent by Dr. Domes to help me when I feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or frightened. Although I can’t see everyone face-to-face, I’ve been in contact by phone or video conference with colleagues and students which has also helped to lift me up.
Mary Beth Yount, Theological Studies
March 25, 2020
There has certainly been a lot going on lately! Transitioning my face-to-face course to online has been working well. I often teach online courses, but those are structured around the construction of knowledge that happens on the discussion board. The students in my in-person, seminar-style honors course really wanted to continue our face-to-face conversations about religion and cultural topics. We created a class contingency plan ahead of time and practiced on Blackboard Collaborate together in our classroom. This made continuing our class meetings from our new locations quite easy when the time to do so arrived.
I am really glad that we worked together to envision what we would like our class to be like just in case we had to move to remote instruction. Having face-to-face class meetings has allowed us to process and navigate this shifting landscape together—and I hope it helps my students to feel less isolated. I have really enjoyed working with them to ensure that we still have a strong community experience.
I have learned a lot about myself during this time, especially that I am more extroverted then I thought. Remaining in my home without the fun chats that I regularly have with everyone around campus is really hard for me! I also miss our daily Masses and other events. I am deeply committed to what we are doing to keep people as safe as possible by slowing the spread of COVID-19, but I sure will be glad when we can all be back together again on campus.
Robert Till, Business Faculty
March 25, 2020
I am adjusting to on-line learning but it has been a process. I started with adding audio to my slides and using extra assignments and discussion boards on blackboard. When the University announced that we would be on-line for the remainder of the year, I purchased a premium Zoom package for about $15 a month and with the help of my daughter Lindsay, an Assistant Professor at Fordham University in NYC, I started to use Zoom. Each time I have used Zoom I have gotten more comfortable, but I did have the advantage of being able to ask Lindsay for help, as she and her family have moved in with us to get out of NYC .
I have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that about 90% of the students seem to be able to join the sessions, and attendance seems to be almost in line with regular classes. I have reached out to the few who have not joined us, and when I hear they have computer problems I tell them that they can join the audio with their phone. One student even joined the video by using his Smart Phone. My guess is that each week both my students and I will get more comfortable with the on-line learning and that my skills will continue to improve. Things seem to be going well but I know a lot of our seniors are hoping that we figure out what we can do to give them a traditional graduation, even it has to be delayed for a while.
Taylor Colgan, Junior Business Administration Major
March 24, 2020
On-line learning is not my favorite way to learn. We are now moving into our second week of on-line classes, and I really do miss being in the classroom setting surrounded by my peers. I don't think I would have ever imagined saying I miss being in a classroom listening to a lecture. But here I am! There is something about being in a class with other students learning the material that helps learning the information to its fullest. Although it is not my favorite as previously stated, being in somewhat of a quarantine and lockdown has minimized the distractions so all I really have to focus on are all of my assignments. What have I learned about myself during this experience? For starters, I never realized how much of a social butterfly I am. I love to see people and have a conversation with them. Whether it is just passing someone in the hallway with a simple smile or saying "hi" or "how are you," all the way to the daily life conversations with my advisor, Carol, or popping my head in to Wellington's office to check on him and to make sure he has a good day. Just sitting at home makes me miss all the little things.
Being stuck at home has forced me to realize all the simple things I have taken advantage of. For example: in-class lectures, having lunch with my friends, late night study groups with my friends, going to sporting events, and just hanging out as a group. When all of this is taken away in a blink of an eye, it really does put things into perspective. We need to appreciate the simple and little things in our lives. Technology is a huge part of our lives. It is a blessing and a curse. We always tend to abuse it when we are with friends and loved ones. Fortunately, technology is developed enough that we can still communicate with those who are not physically with us, so we can still stay in touch.
Alex Rucci, Senior Sport Management Major
March 24, 2020
I’m liking it for certain classes. But it’s definitely a lot of checking black board non-stop. One thing I’ve learned from this is to enjoy the moment. Never take the relationships and moments you have with your professors and classmates for granted!
Connor Pambuena, Junior Marketing Major
March 23, 2020
The adjustment to online learning has been a trip but overall it is going well now. Going from learning in class on a Thursday to purely online by Monday was a quick change of pace for the semester. However, this new reality has many challenges, but is something we are just going to have to get used to for the next couple months. Week one was a tough one, both for professors and students. It was a week of trial and error, but through patience and positivity, both parties seem to be getting used to this new way of life. With week two starting now, I feel as if we can actually get the ball rolling in my classes and everyone can finish out the year as strong as they can.
I have learned a few things about myself as this experience presses on. To start, I learned that I took a lot of things in my life for granted. I think I am one of many people who can say that coming out of this situation. Before we could just hang out with people, go to class, or even choose not to take an experience in. Now we are left at home, not able to go out, wishing we could be with people we loved just one more time. Life can change in a flash and this virus has sure showed me that.
Back on an academic level, it has also taught me time management, responsibility and accountability. Being at home, with many distractions, trying to balance a full, school workload has its challenges. I’ve learned to balance out my schoolwork while still staying connected to everyone. I’ve even still managed to stay active and work out when not doing schoolwork or not on a call. Coming out of this virus pandemic, I feel as if people will be a whole better version of what they were. I’m taking this time and new reality as a forced lesson in life, and I will definitely take as much as I can out of this.
John Sperduto, Child Development Center
March 23, 2020
For the staff of the Child Development Center and myself, this has been a significant adjustment. With very little (hours) we had to switch from a fully functioning preschool, which encourages sharing and participation often in close quarters, to attempting to explain to 3 and 4 years old's why they can not come to school. We are now sending home daily activities, lessons, songs, finger plays, meal, videos, pictures ideas, etc. through email. We were anticipating several awesome activities in the coming week, including the debut of our very first art exhibit in the McNichol Art Gallery "The Art of Play." We are all saddened by our time away, but are very hopeful healing will begin, and we can reschedule some of our most anticipated events.
I have learned that I am a people person. Social Distancing is not my friend! Technology and I do not get along well.
Erica D’Mello, Junior CDM Major
March 20, 2020
Switching to online learning due to COVID-19 has definitely forced me to adjust. Although the majority of my classes are not too difficult to switch online, I do still miss the interactive aspect of in-class learning. During my Advertising class, much of our lesson was interpreting advertisements and discussing, as a class, how they were successful. Being in that environment allowed us to bounce ideas off each other. Although you can still do this online, it is not the same as physically being there.
Online learning also has a completely different structure. Although I have more time to do things, I am not required to follow a specific schedule which forces me to manage my time and avoid procrastination much more than I did while going to regular classes.
I feel for those who are unable to truly get the best experience out of their class. Intro to Film is one of my favorite classes I have taken at Neumann and much of this was due to the practical and creative nature of the class. Using the high-quality equipment, introducing myself to industry specific software and working in teams to film projects was extremely fun and interesting. Hence, it is unfortunate that some students will not have that same opportunity.
This experience of switching to online learning has forced me to be organized, structured, and among all else, resilient. The college experience is so much more than just academics and I think with this unlucky situation people are realizing just that. To go from seeing your friends, faculty, teammates and colleagues every day, to seeing your computer screen is upsetting. However, something I have learned, especially in the past few years of being a student athlete, is that I cannot control everything. I can, however, control how I react to a situation.
I think it has made me realize how important social interaction is. My generation specifically is criticized constantly for being too invested in technology. However, I think this proves to those critics that we value much more than our screens. We value our relationships with others and face-to-face communication possibly more than our social media accounts, and I believe this current situation demonstrates that.
Leanne Havis, Arts and Sciences Faculty
March 20, 2020
The process of adjusting to online learning has given me a different perspective on what our students experience. To be honest, I've found myself at times feeling overwhelmed, confused, and worried, trying to figure out how to accomplish goals like covering course content and engaging students in unfamiliar formats and with relatively little time to prepare. Our students probably feel all of those things the first time they take a hybrid or online class - overwhelmed, confused, and worried - and this experience has been a humbling but necessary cue to extend grace and compassion while expecting and delivering (or trying to deliver) excellence. In an e-mail to the Arts and Sciences faculty, Dr. Mueller reminded us about the importance of being Franciscan during this time, and that really resonated with me. So how am I adjusting to online learning? Slowly, patiently, and with the help of experienced and generous colleagues who share their time and expertise selflessly.
This experience has taught me that I am more adaptable and flexible than I thought I could be. My students will be the first to tell you how rigid and draconian I am when it comes to certain things, like my late policy - I do NOT accept late work. Ever. But I've checked in with my students and heard some of their stories, which are tough to hear. Some of them are now de facto babysitters for younger siblings so parents can work from home without distraction, others are caring for elderly grandparents or uncles and aunts who are at higher levels of risk, while still others are battling mental health struggles and feel too scared or anxious or overwhelmed to concentrate on school work. What this told me was that I needed to relax my policies and some of my expectations. Our core value of service tells us to act with compassion, humility, and love, and here was an opportunity for me to do so. The relief I saw in my students when I told them that it was okay if they needed to turn work in late was palpable. What a powerful reminder of the impact we can have as educators, not just on a student's academic success but on the well-being of the whole person.
On a lighter note, I've also learned that my limit for the number of Power Rangers episodes I can tolerate in the background (to keep my five-year-olds occupied while I grade) is seven.
Geoff Karabin, Arts and Sciences Faculty
March 20, 2020
The adjustment has been relatively easy from my end because I consistently teach in an online environment and the infrastructure to transition my current classes to an online format was already in place. In this regard, the transition has been useful in terms of exploring new tools, such as Collaborate, in which to deliver online content.
The most important things I've gained from this pause in our lives is a better sense of our profound inter-dependency and an opportunity to reflect upon what I most value in life.
Marisa Rauscher, Education Faculty
March 19, 2020
I feel excited to design quality online experiences for our students. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time and I am really stoked to provide opportunities for students to think, connect, and develop. Evolving as an online instructor has been a gradual process over the last 5 years – now in the face of an unexpected global challenge, I am a little more prepared to virtually journey with my students.
The reality of this situation is that a lot changed pretty quickly in comparison to what our brains typically process with variation and unknowns, so the beginning days feel uphill, but I am gaining on it and I hope I can help our students feel satisfaction, hope, and growth.
I have learned that I have a really supportive village of friends, family, and neighbors and that connecting, laughing, and exercising allow me to feel like me when life changes. I have also confirmed that I am not very talented in the kitchen, and despite this, I have liked slowing down and eating simpler meals at home with my family. My students have always modeled resilience for me and showed me how to be more flexible – it seems their lessons are really helping me right now.
Liz Loeper, Nursing Faculty
March 17, 2020
I think my adjustment to this experience so far has been to constantly remind myself to show some self-compassion and try to keep a sense of humor. I am learning a new technology, and I will need to be patient. I can't say enough good things about my colleagues in the nursing department; we hold each other up and help each other through. We recognize how hard this is on everyone and we really are trying to model calm and grace to our students. I usually meditate, and over the last couple of days, I haven't spent the time I usually do. I notice the difference, so I urge everyone to find the time to breathe and be still, however that looks for them! I have learned that I definitely need to take the time every day to quiet down and just be.
Ashley Onorato, Senior CDM Major
March 17, 2020
I write this with blue nitrile gloves on, trying to protect myself and others from contracting the virus while I continue to work. Since I work at a hardware store and we are considered an essential business, we will remain open for as long as is practical. This pandemic has been quite a rollercoaster for me. When Neumann announced they would remain open, my grandparents requested that I ask for online courses, since they are both high-risk. The next day, the university decided they would close for two weeks. Only 2 days later, my family and I decided it would be safer if I moved into my boyfriend's family's house for the time being, so my grandparents had less of a risk of exposure, since I am still working. It has definitely been a big change.
With the way that my courses are this semester, the online transition has been quite the struggle. I have two courses that require Adobe software, which I am fortunate to have access to at home. But even though I have the software, I do not have the thousand-dollar labs that make courses like Audio Production possible. I also have my senior seminar class this semester, which guides us to create a project that encompasses what we’ve learned in the major. For mine, I decided to create a vegetarian cookbook. While I can work on this at home, it’s going to be challenging with supermarket stock wavering, and lack of the kitchen that I am accustomed to using. Finally, I have my internship this semester. Luckily, mine is with the university and I am able to continue working online. I’m sure many others are not so lucky. Overall, I am glad to have my health, but do not look forward to the months ahead. This has definitely changed me as a person and will probably change the world as we know it. All I can say is I hope that you have plenty of books to read!