Posted on: November 5, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Deana Elhit, Features Editor

Since last spring, COVID-19 has caused the lockdown of most schools across the United States, including Moraine Valley Community College. The Glacier is presenting a series of stories to hear MVCC professors and students talk about the experiences and challenges they are facing while making the switch to digital learning.

Griselda De La Mora balances motherhood while studying as a full-time student.

At the moment I believe I am doing a good job of juggling being a full-time student with helping my kids with their e-learning.

Griselda De La Mora

Superwoman is a title that fits Griselda De La Mora, 33, as she balances online courses with being a mother of three.

“At the moment I believe I am doing a good job of juggling being a full-time student with helping my kids with their e-learning. But I am unsure how things will be down the line as assignments and projects begin to pile up on me,” De La Mora said.

While in WebEx meetings for her courses, De La Mora is often interrupted.

 “I log my daughter in to her class and try to listen to my own professor on my laptop but constantly miss points of the lecture from getting up to help my children,” she said.

Since online learning began, studying for seven hours has affected De La Mora’s home life as she tries to complete homework and cook for the family.  

De La Mora used to take her children to MV’s Preschool Learning Center. Her youngest son, Jacob, 3, was supposed to start preschool this year, though that’s all changed due to lockdown. De La Mora’s two daughters are Avery, 13, and Madeline, 5.

De La Mora explained how the variation of her professor’s teaching styles made her learning experience either easier or more difficult to understand. 

“Some professors have taken the extra initiative to record themselves in a lecture with video demonstrations,” she said. “Some have meetings on WebEx where we can discuss the material, but then there’s some that simply have their notes online and that is all.”

The first challenge was making sure she completed her work accurately. 

Normally at campus the professor would demonstrate. Now, De la Mora finds herself requesting videos from professors or looking up how-to videos.

“A lot of it requires traditional drawing techniques as well as understanding how to use various Adobe software,” De La Mora said.

“I definitely miss the independent studio times at the school where the teachers would walk around and help us right then and there if we needed help as opposed to sending an email and waiting for them to get back to you in between their busy schedules,” she said.

Online learning has definitely challenged De La Mora this semester, yet it has also made it more convenient for her as she can complete homework at any time, allowing her to get a headstart on assignments.  

With so many things happening at once, De La Mora knows to not be too hard on herself. “I know that my best IS good enough for this current situation as long as I get my work done to meet the class expectations,” she said.

The switch to a complete digital learning system has made her grow as a student. She’s learning to stay organized and doesn’t hesitate to ask questions.

De La Mora says she’s a visual learner and would prefer to learn in person. However, due to the pandemic, she is more comfortable learning online. She doesn’t feel that going to MV’s campus would be safe at the moment as desks and computers are constantly being touched.

De La Mora is studying to get an Associate in Applied Science in Digital Art and Design and hopes to graduate by spring 2021.

After graduating, De La Mora plans to become a graphic designer in marketing and a freelance illustrator. She hopes to continue her education to get a bachelor’s degree in design. 

Darkroom goes digital

During the spring, Professor Tyler Hewitt’s darkroom photography class was no longer able to resume as there was no access to the studio.

“All I was told was you need to figure out what to do with this class,” he said. “I kept telling my dean and my assistant dean, we can’t go into darkroom. The state gives us guidelines for what has to appear in the class and it’s a darkroom class, so it has to have a darkroom in it. I had to come up with something but it can’t be a darkroom anymore.”

Hewitt made the switch from darkroom to a smartphone photography class, rewriting all the assignments to adjust to the new circumstances.

Students were given options to either transition or wait for campus to reopen in January 2021. All students transitioned into the smartphone photography course.

Hewitt explained how he worked 12 hours a day for seven days a week to ensure everything in Canvas was prepared and set for this online semester. 

Hewitt teaches three classes, each containing 12 students in his digital photography class. 

“You have to set everything before class starts. When I teach in person, I can review my notes quickly and go to class and teach. You can’t do that now,” he said. “ I spent three weeks in July putting everything for my classes this semester. I was working like a full time job while I’m off in the summer. Everything had to be set in Canvas ready to go because one little mistake can make an avalanche and you start rearranging everything.” 

Despite teaching from home, Hewitt says having virtual conferences with his classmates makes him “feel a lot like being in the classroom.”

“Teaching online has really taught me a lot of what is and what isn’t important. Sometimes, it’s not just the assignments and technological stuff like that, it’s the interpersonal stuff. Communication influences the tone of the class and the social part is an important part of education,” Hewitt said.

In the spring, Adobe helped to provide art enrolled students the Creative Suite software for free until July 1, allowing students to edit their photos from home.

However, Adobe was not able to provide the same program in the fall. Students had to purchase their own photoshop bundle from Adobe for $10 a month.

The bigger challenge he’s currently facing is rearranging his assignments. He began including discussion exercises and online critiques that focus on topics relating to the photography vocabulary. This prepares students for the final exam from the very beginning of the semester.

Trying to meet his student’s needs can be difficult.

“Most of what I can do is point you to the right area, because you need to take the initiative and actually do stuff on your own. But you try to meet the needs of the people who need that push,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt compares his students’ different performances on Canvas with Photoshop as some students are more experienced than others. Varying the difficulty level for each student.

Hewitt never used Canvas before lockdown, making it a more difficult adjustment to not only teach his students online but also himself, though he says he’s grown to become more comfortable using Canvas this semester

The Gallery Report, an assignment that required students to visit an art gallery, has changed into viewing online galleries and blogs instead. Students are allowed to visit public art galleries if they feel comfortable. Hewitt suggests, “it’s going to make better papers anyway,” since students will now have both options to choose from.

Hewitt brought cameras to the bookstore and disinfected them himself in preparation for his students. 

Bookstores are responsible for collecting and handling camera rentals this semester and it has seen its ups and downs.

“This semester I’m taking care of the contracts. We still have more students than we have cameras available, and I needed to make sure we didn’t get too many contracts,” he said. “So the students would email me if they wanted a contract and I would send it to them. They fill it out, send it to the bookstore and call the bookstore to make a payment, and pick up the cameras at curbside pickup.”

He gives credit to Assistant Dean Lisa Kelsay for helping him solve the communication issues with the bookstore.  

When Hewitt was asked if he preferred going back to campus or continue teaching online, he said, “That’s a question I’ve asked myself countless times since March. I don’t know if I have a definitive answer.

“I really do like being able to talk to people in person and being able to see what somebody is doing while they are in progress and offer suggestions. That I don’t get to do when I’m online,” he said.

“On the other hand, I have been a night owl my entire life, so I don’t have to conform to a daytime schedule now. I can get up at 8:30 am, have my coffee and have an hour and half to prepare. I feel more rested but it will be a harder thing to give up.”

Teaching online has really taught me a lot of what is and what isn’t important. Communication influences the tone of the class and the social part is an important part of education.

Tyler Hewitt