The Online Transition — Making Lemonade When We Get Lemons

By Tom Filsinger, Lecturer, Psychological Sciences

We are living in unprecedented, fast-changing times during a worldwide pandemic. This requires extraordinary adjustments to our lifestyle.

The abrupt transition from in-person classes to online modes of instruction was not an easy or pleasant thing to do— many faculty and students developed personal and productive in-person relationships during the first half of the semester.

One of the large lecture rooms I taught in

But adjust we must — so let’s look at some adaptive ways to cope with these changes.

The new online classroom environment requires everyone to be flexible. There are wide variations in the degree to which both students and faculty are comfortable and experienced dealing with these changes.

Some faculty members have taught online courses for many years, therefore making the transition easier on their students. Others may have taught online before but not the current courses they are teaching this semester. And then there are faculty members who may never have taught an online course.

Add in class sizes and my head starts to spin — faculty with large in-person classes of 70 or more students this semester must make the transition to online delivery despite large numbers, which can be challenging. Take it from me; I have nearly 300 students in my classes this semester.

Students face challenges of their own because they also vary widely in their comfort level with online courses. Some students have taken several online courses and are comfortable with them. Others have never taken an online course or don’t like them. Still others do not have easy access to technology or a laptop as readily as others. Some will find it challenging to use Zoom or other instructional tools. Faculty will need to be sensitive to these individual differences.

I posted a poll at my Twitter account a couple weeks ago where I asked students, “What are your thoughts about classes going online?” This poll was posted when going online for the semester was still only a rumor. 45 students responded to the poll. The most common response (51%) was, “Nervous about it.” The next (40%) was “Wait and see how it goes.” Only 9% said “Look forward to it.”

Speaking for myself, I have modified my courses to be as simple and straightforward as possible for my students. Whether I succeed or not will be determined over time. I am keeping communication channels open and inviting students to interact with me.

These are hard times for us all. My recommendations for students during these difficult and challenging times:

1. Develop routines and self-discipline

Many students are less comfortable with online delivery. They have became accustomed to the routine of going to classes and being inspired or in some way motivated by their professors for getting class work done. Not going to class reduces the immediacy of that motivation. This means students will need to create routines that will work for them in the comfort of their homes or apartments.

This includes setting aside a certain amount of time or specific hours for getting work done on a regular basis — making checklists of activities and daily educational goals to ensure in-class productivity.

2. Stay engaged with all your classes

Hit the ground running and get engaged in your classes starting now!

Don’t let yourself slowly slip away from involvement in your classes. Speak to other students via discussion boards, forums, or chats.

Don’t allow yourself to fall behind in your work or this will exponentially get worse with time and eventually you may be tempted to give up entirely. Don’t let that happen.

3. Reach out to faculty with your concerns

There is wide variation in student’s attitudes, comfort level, and technological prowess for succeeding in online courses.

You may be one of those who feel insecure and fearful. Don’t think you’re alone — you’re not!

My advice is to share your concerns with faculty and ask them for assistance or advice.

Anything but dropping out or falling behind, that should be your motto!

At times like these it is more important than ever to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and practice meditation and mindfulness to clear our thoughts.

More time indoors is an opportunity for developing new hobbies, new habits, and evolving and growing as a person.

One of my students said she is taking up painting, another is learning a new language.

Life is always a game of making lemonade when we get lemons.

Don’t give in to fear, anxiety, and negativity.

Times of crisis are also times to come together as communities to help each other. Reach out and be supportive of others.

Be a source of inspiration and goodwill, keeping in mind: “The good you do comes back to you.”

I look forward to seeing you all again.

Teaching at NAU pre-online instruction

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