Franklin and Ruff discuss adjustments and challenges related to online learning

At Hastings College, Professor of English Susan Franklin and freshman Ethan Ruff elaborated on the difficulties that they have faced in the midst of the on-going pandemic in regards to academic writing courses using a hybrid model this semester. They explain that given the challenges that they have faced, we must maintain a positive attitude and outcome, because we will get through these trying times. 

Professor of English Susan Franklin spoke about the impacts on students’ learning experiences that she has encountered in the midst of the on-going pandemic while teaching academic writing in Block 4. 

“I’m teaching a hybrid model, where we meet three days in person and two days online. It’s difficult for planning purposes and for student attention purposes to have that kind of break in the classes,” Franklin said. “Technology is of course an issue, because not everyone, including myself has the same internet access, especially out in the boonies where my access is very limited. And that has been a problem with students, and with myself. Especially when students are just on iPads or phones.” 

With the difficulties surrounding disadvantages of technology and access to a stable internet connection, Franklin also said that the attention of students is a challenge, when having class sessions in a virtual format. “So, we’re meeting in person, but some people are dialing in on Google Meet and just that inconsistency or not knowing who is going to be attending, and by which method, especially when is sort of a struggle,” Franklin said.

“Being a hybrid-model class requires a really different sort of planning strategy. When we’re in the classroom, I try to deliver lectures or things that I want to be face-to-face to hear and see the student’s understanding and reaction. It’s difficult, because as a professor, I don’t necessarily know what’s going on in each student’s life and I think it’s been documented that mental health issues partially because of the pandemic have risen.”

The health and well-being of the students was also a major concern and obstacle for Professor Franklin. These challenges that are faced tend to play a major role in the students’ lives inside and outside of the classroom setting.

“The greatest obstacle is not having that key awareness anymore of what’s going on inside with each individual,” Franklin said. 

With these challenges considered, Franklin concluded that she has been keeping an open mind towards others’ situations and struggles during the pandemic.

“My biggest coping mechanism for me is having an attitude of grace. It’s a trying time for everyone and more so than ever before, we don’t know all of the factors, all of the stressors, all of the conditions that our fellow students may be suffering and so professionally I am trying to be flexible and adaptable, giving grace to my students and asking that they give grace to me. Because all of our goals are the same, successfully to move them through learning and experiences and knowledge to get to their graduation. Now, it’s more important than ever to be gracious to one another.”

From a student perspective, Ruff spoke about the difficulties that he has faced throughout his class experience. 

“I think some of the things that I have struggled with is probably communication. I know that a lot of the professors were new to canvas as it is, and then the whole COVID thing happened on top of it,” Ruff said.

He elaborated on the difficulties that he noticed in regards to struggling with technology and the learning experience for fellow students in the new classroom setting. “I feel like the professors have made it somewhat easier for us, because they know what we are going through,” Ruff said.“I think the greatest odd I’ve faced is meeting new people honestly. This year is just so different and we’re supposed to be in activities and meeting new people. I mean, we can’t even see each other’s faces and it’s so hard to accommodate life, compared to a year ago.”

Ruff added that some activities planned by the resident assistants (RAs) were encouraging and have helped students to cope with stress related to the on-going pandemic. “I think it was pretty cool for all of the RA’s to put together events and activities for us,” Ruff said. 

In regards to the learning experience for the students, Ruff explained how his personal preferences are  challenged with the use of technology for most assignments and having class outside of the classroom. 

“I’m more of a visual person, so it’s hard for me to really learn anything from just staring at a screen all day. I like to be in the room with the teacher and the students, that makes it seem more informative for me,” he said.

Regardless of the challenges faced and the difficulties that may arise, Ruff is hopeful that everyone can manage to get through these challenges. 

“Thankfully, we’ve been able to maintain some degree of having a social life. I’ve been able to branch out and get involved in new activities and meet a ton of new people,” Ruff said.