Posted on: April 17, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Zachary Bertram, JRN 111 Student

Will the switch to online courses leave gaps in some students’ education? What are the effects on lower-income students who may not have the resources they need? Could online learning turn out to be a positive for some students?

These are some of the questions in the minds of students and parents across the country as nearly all colleges have converted to online classes for the rest of the spring 2020 semester due to the coronavirus outbreak.

At Moraine Valley, faculty and administrators are working to address the concerns.

History major Tim Moriarty finds online classes challenging.

Although students will miss out on certain tasks that were meant to be done in person, Lisa Kelsay, assistant dean of liberal arts, says they will still get what they need.

“This allows for finding and creating other ways to gain the same experience or information,” she said.

Kelsay, who is also director of academic arts, gave the example of certain students being required to attend a concert in person. She pointed out that they can still do this assignment by watching a concert online, on Youtube, Instagram Live, or Facebook Live.

Some students are still concerned about whether they will have to retake parts of classes if they need in-person interactions or practice to get the degree they are seeking.

“Students who have classes in the lab will miss out on hands-on experience that is critical to the fields they want to enter,” said Moraine Valley history major Tim Moriarty.

Moraine Valley’s Assistant Director of Communications Jessica Crotty said, “Some of our classes are designed for hands-on learning: nursing, welding, automotive technology, etc.”

Faculty find creative solutions

But faculty have been creative in offering alternative assignments that provide students the same information in a different format, says Kelsay.

She commends teachers and professors for thinking outside of the box to continue their teaching by doing assignments via Zoom, PowerPoint, and whatever else is needed to present the material in the best way possible.

Crotty said, “Moving all classes to an online format ensures students will receive all of the instruction they would have received in a face to face class.”

At the beginning of e-learning, there may be gaps in some areas but those students will get caught up as classes progress and students and professors become more adjusted to online learning, Kelsay said.

She added that Moraine Valley’s faculty have done an amazing job quickly adjusting their classes so their students can continue their education as smoothly as possible.

Gregory Myers, who has been teaching mathematics at Moraine for 11 years, has adjusted to teaching online by using Zoom.

“I personally use a Zoom-based class with my sections where I show prepared notes that have all the items in them completed prior to class,” said Myers.

The mathematics faculty are in constant communication to make sure all topics are covered, said Myers, but he recognizes that online learning does present challenges for students.

“I feel that technology used in the online lectures limits a student’s desire to ask a question,” said Myers.

However, Myers feels that this is a golden opportunity for students to develop their personal study habits. He feels that this situation, while still unfortunate, will prepare students for the future since they must teach themselves, in a way.

“To be successful in higher education, one must learn how to learn,” he said.

He said he would obviously prefer to resume in-person class work, but he is actually considering online office hours for future semesters.

Online learning works well for some

For some students, online learning could turn out to be a positive.

Kelsay said she takes online courses herself to keep her teaching license active. “The online environment works best for me due to having a full time job and training for triathlons,” she said.

What she enjoys about online classes is being able to hop on class at any time of the day or night from anywhere to write a paper, review a PowerPoint, or join a discussion. Even though the online system works for her, Kelsay realizes that online classes are not the optimal situation for everyone.

Jessica Crotty believes that students with previous online education will have a smooth transition to online exclusive learning.

“Some students are well-prepared for online education,” she said. “These students probably already have taken a few online classes and understand the self-discipline required to be successful e-learning.”

Moriarty believes that online classes will be more difficult than in-person classes for most students since students won’t have the luxury of being able to ask their professor a direct face-to-face question and have it answered right away with extra explanation if necessary.

He said online classes will be much more of a challenge for him, but he is going to do his best to work hard and have a successful semester despite the unfortunate circumstances.

Lower income means bigger challenges

“Online classes may work better for higher income students who have more access to WiFi and internet, as places that usually offer free internet like the library are closed to the public at this time,” said Moriarty.

It will now be much more difficult for students to get the help they need from tutors if they are struggling, he pointed out.

“School closures will prevent some lower income students without internet from receiving the quality of education they deserve,” he said.

The Tutoring Center is now virtual! Last week, tutors got creative with the technology students had available, including cell phones, Zoom and tablets, and helped almost 100 of them with their coursework. Students who need tutoring assistance should fill out the online form on MVConnect, and someone will contact them to set up a session. For questions, email tutoringcenter@morainevalley.edu. 

Crotty said Moraine is taking actions to address this issue: “Moraine has tried to make the transition as easy as possible by loaning laptops and WiFi hotspots, training faculty on how to help struggling students, and being flexible and patient with the students.”

For students who are new to online learning, Moraine is finding ways to help, says Kelsay.

“Students can attend an orientation and training on Canvas and even still receive free tutoring online for their classes.”

Payton Millhouse contributed to this report.

Zachary Bertram can be reached at bertramz@student.morainevalley.edu.