Lillian Hucke ’24  |   Published April 09, 2021

Learning to Adjust

Hybrid classes are a new normal for Monmouth students and professors, who are awaiting full return to in-person experience in fall.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – In the pre-pandemic world of higher education, it was pretty easy for professors to pick out the students who had attended class, then disengaged. Those students would be the ones staring out a window, checking their phone or even asleep at their desk.

During a new normal that has featured more classes through Zoom and other online platforms, Monmouth College professors say it’s harder to make those evaluations, and students say it can be harder for them to stay on task.

All parties are eager for the College’s planned full return to in-person classes in August.

Philosophy professor Anne Mamary said that not being face-to-face with all of her students has been challenging, especially when students learning remotely don’t turn on their cameras during class.

“It’s hard to talk to names on a screen and not to be able to read facial expressions to know if students want to speak or if they are confused,” she said.

QUENTIN BARTRAM: Junior says he's getting more used to online learning, although classroom di... QUENTIN BARTRAM: Junior says he's getting more used to online learning, although classroom discussions are still problematic.Quentin Bartram ’22 of Worthington, Ohio, said he struggles the most with class discussion. Some professors hold in-person classes and have the fully remote students Zoom into the live class. When students are split like that, he said a full class discussion is more challenging.

“Most of the time you cannot hear the online students speaking, if they speak at all, and you are missing out on an important part of that class,” he said. “It is very easy for students to disengage when coming to class virtually. In class, professors have the ability to re-engage you, but on Zoom it’s as easy to disengage as just turning off your camera or refusing to unmute.”

“It’s a lot easier to get distracted on a Zoom call,” said Hannah Rossmiller ’24 of East Moline, Illinois.

Battling back

For some students, procrastination and motivation have become more challenging with online learning, but many have battled back with improved time-management skills. Bartram uses a large desk calendar to plan his week, which helps him organize classes, cocurriculars and homework. But even with more organization, he said he sometimes finds it hard to remain fully engaged in class.

“That immediate and sudden transition to online learning last spring is what made people hate it as much as they did. Going into this semester, I understand learning online a lot more. I just wish I had known how to do it when this pandemic first started.” Quentin Bartram

“We have to be a lot more independent with how we learn and how we budget our time,” he said.

Despite the drawbacks, Bartram said the overall experience is improving through repetition.

“That immediate and sudden transition to online learning last spring is what made people hate it as much as they did,” he said. “Going into this semester, I understand learning online a lot more. I just wish I had known how to do it when this pandemic first started.”

The more you know

Political science professor Andre Audette is among the Monmouth professors who has worked to improve online learning.

“I did a lot of studying of how to be a more effective online teacher and have found that the things that matter most with in-person teaching – caring for students, asking good questions, trying to get students involved in their own learning – also matter the most in online teaching,” he said.

Audette and his colleagues have faced many challenges with the transition to online learning, including “Zoom fatigue” from being on a computer for long periods of time. In the first few months of online teaching, Audette said he experienced Zoom fatigue. But after being a fully online teacher in the spring, he has found Zoom to feel more normal.

ANNE MAMARY: Although Zoom fatigue is real, psychology professor says Zoom is also a ... ANNE MAMARY: Although "Zoom fatigue" is real, psychology professor says Zoom is also a savior, as online learning would not have been possible when she was a college student.Like Audette, Mamary has also become more comfortable with using Zoom and virtual teaching. Mamary said she always loved having in-person discussions and activities, such as the College’s and “Meaning of Life” lunches. Although the pandemic limited interactions like those, she said she is grateful that Zoom allows her to continue to have real-time conversations.

Staying connected

“This would have been pretty near impossible when I was in college, and it’s saved the day in our current situation,” she said. “I can’t believe that a year ago, Zoom was still a PBS kids’ show from my childhood, and now it’s a tool to keep us together.”

“Together” is a key word for both Bartram and Rossmiller, who said they are grateful for their opportunity to be on campus the past two semesters. Bartram said he’s thankful for the flexibility Monmouth professors have shown as students and faculty continue to learn and adjust.

Rossmiller agreed.

“Monmouth is doing a great job with still having in-person classes that follow COVID rules,” she said.

Despite the new rules, Audette said that an old rule still applies.

“We still want to get to know students, have them come to office hours, or interact, chat and ask questions,” he said. “The learning environment has definitely changed, but we are still here for the students just like before the pandemic.”

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