Lessons from the past year of online classes

Levi Shields, Staff Reporter

It has been almost a year since CWU first shifted away from in-person modalities for classes. Over this period, students and professors alike have had to adapt to and overcome the numerous challenges that came with the shift. As the one-year mark approaches, some students and professors are reflecting on everything that they’ve done over the past year.

Associate Professor of Theater Arts Emily Rollie said the best thing to come out of the past year was the sense of connectivity, despite being physically apart. She said that hybrid classes feel more special because students are sharing the same space, despite being socially distanced. She believes that once fully in-person classes are possible again, they will be much more appreciated. 

“Even though we’re apart, I feel like my students are willing to engage in a way that we might not have in the classroom,” Rollie said. “I think that connectivity and appreciation for that has really come out of this moment.”

Rollie said she appreciated the “small human moments” that come from online classes, such as when a pet, roommate, child or partner walks on camera in the background. She said she sees it as a reminder that students exist beyond the classroom, and that we are all humans. She finds that her students are more excited when she teaches her classes while holding her cat. One of the biggest lessons she learned this year, she said, is the importance of flexibility, especially when working online.  

Professor of Biology Ian Quitadamo said the best thing that came out of the past year was realizing the importance of relationships. He said technology is a tool that must be used in regulation and that people should be minimizing the focus on technology and maximizing the focus on human connections and relationships. 

Ian Quitadamo

Professor of Physics Bruce Palmquist said that the best thing that came out of the past year for him was being able to spend more time with his wife, as well as exercising and reading.

Palmquist said that the biggest lesson he learned was to make sure that students have the opportunity to work together, even when working online. He said to give the option of meeting once a week and to plan assignments that facilitate cooperation rather than forcing students to work together

Rollie said that if she could go back a year ago and tell herself something, she would say to give grace to herself and her students as they navigate both the online platform as well as life beyond the classroom. She also said she would stress the importance of organization, particularly when working online.

Palmquist said that if he could go back, he would tell himself that not all students are as tech-savvy as he would expect when it comes to online school resources. While a lot of students may be experienced in some form of technology like social media and electronic music, that doesn’t mean that they fully understand how to navigate school resources. He equated it to putting a tennis player on a basketball court. While they may have some athletic ability, it does not mean they can play basketball well.

Bruce Palmquist

He also said that it is important to take what you have learned in this time and apply it to when school returns to the way it was. He advised professors to retain some of the new things that they’ve started doing in their online classes if they’ve proven to be effective, such as recording lectures or podcasting.

Quitadamo said that upon hearing that CWU was going online, he researched what resources were available to him. When classes started, he began collaborating with his students using Blackboard Collaborate but found that it did not suit the needs of his class, in particular, the interactive whiteboard was not satisfactory to him. He asked his students about possible alternatives.

“The students know that it’s not my class, it’s our class. So, you get a say in what happens,” Quitadamo said.

Quitadamo and his students decided together that they would use Microsoft Teams instead. 

Rollie said that while she was always a runner, she has made it her goal over the past year to go for a run every single day. She said that she has almost reached that goal. 

“It’s maybe not a new hobby, but it is something that has kept me grounded, literally and figuratively, and has given me space to be present for my students, to be present for my colleagues, to be present for myself,” Rollie said.

Palmquist said that he has used his socially distanced time to start studying Spanish using Duolingo. While he has tried to learn Spanish in the past, he was never able to stick with it. He hit a 76-day streak on the app as of March 5.

Quitadamo said that he does more Yoga than he used to, and has recognized the importance of taking care of oneself. He said that he often talks with his students, asking them if they have gotten enough rest, the right food, and enough water or exercise. When learning, he said, a little bit of stress is important, but once somebody’s level of stress goes beyond that, they are no longer learning.