Spending More Time Plugged in Doesn’t Exactly Mean We’re More Connected–Online Learning Has Proved That
Virtual Learning doesn’t have the same effect as the traditional class room setting | Photo By Creative Commons
By Jusin Capera
Since the pandemic began in March, York College has been shut down to most in-person classes and students shifted to being taught online. Both students and professors feel disconnected from one another. With classes being taught online, the in-person connection is lost.
The online model of having classes on both Zoom and Blackboard has resulted in Professors at York College struggling to connect to their students the way they used to. York Professor Andrew Jackson who teaches Introduction to Black Studies this semester says he struggles to feel connected to his students.
“I feel disconnected from my students because I can’t see you,” said Jackson. “I can’t see your responses. I can’t see your reactions to things. Some of the things I do in the classroom I haven’t figured out how to do through Blackboard.”
Jackson mentions how he would like for his students who do not use their cameras during Zoom classes to have a picture on their profile. This way he can see them even when the camera is off–and he can have more than just a name on the screen.
The interactions with students and professors online is a struggle. One of the main reasons for that is students can simply stay on mute rather than answer questions; an obstacle Andrew Jackson faces in his classes. Another York professor, Vanessa Brown, who teaches Astronomy Lab this semester also has the same struggles.
“Unfortunately, I don’t feel the same connection with my students online that I did during in-person teaching,” said Brown. “With face-to-face classes, I get a better feel of when students need clarification, when they need a break, when they are feeling very enthusiastic about the material, etcetera.”
Just as some professors feel this sense of disconnection with students, it’s the same way around for students as well. Michelle Williams, a sophomore, a Psychology major at York, says the connection with her professors is hard to achieve through a computer screen and that reaching out to students is a way these professors can help build these connections again.
“Definitely an effective solution for socially distanced learning would be the professor taking an extra step to know the student more,” said Williams.
Professor Jackson has taken the initiative to better his approach to online teaching.
“Starting the class early so we can just have our regular conversations that lead into our lecture,” said Jackson. “Students should feel comfortable asking the professors questions since they deal with the professors on a regular basis. And the more comfortable I make you feel, the easier it is to create that open environment that results in students being comfortable [and] having questions for me as well as responding to my questions.”
Professor Jackson has his question period at 8:30 am before he Black Studies class officially begins at 9:15 am. This period of time helps students feel a connection with the professor. This extra time is needed in order to mimic what classes were like before the pandemic.
More professors at York should follow this model in order to fix the disconnect they have with their students. They should all have a window of time where the students can get the help that they need as well as making sure they know the professor is still present.