The transition from in-person to virtual classes has changed both the learning process and the way that teachers interact with their students. Education Policy Studies students Anne Marie Clark, Hailey Fanger, and LyRae Dantes have firsthand experience with this adjustment.
Clark earned a degree in International Studies from BYU–Idaho and began working for BYU–Pathway Worldwide as a policy professional. She now manages the organization’s support center and is a full-time student at BYU. Transitioning to online learning has been both beneficial and challenging for Clark. Not having to commute has helped her balance her time as a student and as a full-time employee at BYU–Pathway Worldwide. She notes the digital divide and “how many students often don't have the resources to successfully complete online education. That’s been a big challenge through COVID-19, and realizing there is such a large digital divide with our college students.” The change to distanced learning has caused technical difficulties and she says, “one of the slogans of 2020 is, ‘I think you're on mute,’ just because many people have had difficulty adapting to this new setting.”
Fanger has also had to balance school with her other responsibilities. As a single mother, she has been grateful to be able to spend more time with her young daughter but has sometimes found it difficult to care for her as well as attend her online classes. Having understanding professors who are willing to work with her has made a huge difference in her experience with online classes. She says, “I think that if we're going to continue with this distance learning, it's going to take different communication skills in order to get to true understanding and empathy for each other as we are physically distanced.” In Fanger’s experience, strong communication and flexibility are key to success in an online learning format. Despite challenges, Fanger remains optimistic. “The future is collaboration, and finding ways to personalize the learning experience, as well as the human development side of it.”
Adjusting to online learning was not difficult for Dantes; prior to her time as an education policy student, she taught English in Japan for five years, interacting with her family in the United States via technology. However, she does share the opinion that “there’s really something about having class in person and having that energy of everybody in there and interacting with them personally that I miss.” Dantes enjoys her online classes and has appreciated not having to commute, but also feels that one disadvantage of virtual classrooms is that technological difficulties can impact the quality of a lecture.
All three students feel that their experiences with online classes have had advantages as well as disadvantages. Educators and students using the new teaching format will find more success if they practice consistent communication and understand that circumstances are different for each student and professor. Moving forward, the students agree that improvements to online learning will continue to be needed, but that their experiences have been positive overall.
Writer: Camille Ladd