Students reflect on benefits, disadvantages of technology during a COVID-19 semester

It’s no stretch to say that it has not been a normal year at Augustana. The COVID-19 pandemic has made students and professors more dependent on technology than ever. While some Augustana students have found that technology can make learning more difficult, others see the advantages that have come from using it.

Safety has been a large consideration. Many classes are being held via Zoom and teachers use Canvas, Moodle and Google Drive to organize classes.  However, the sudden switch to online learning software is a difficult one for many students to adjust to, particularly because many aren’t used to so much of their schoolwork being online. 

Such a large online component, as many classes entail, has made it difficult to stay organized and motivated.

“There’s so many different Zoom things going on, not just with school, but with sports and other events that you have to keep track of, and everyone has to make sure the internet’s working,” freshman Gracie Render said. 

She said it’s not just classes that have had to adjust but student life activities as well. 

Senior Kjersti Olson said she finds it difficult to keep her motivation, especially with a lack of physical engagement in class. For her, coursework feels more like a hoop to jump through than a means to learn the material.

“Sometimes it’s harder to be motivated when there isn’t a clear reward,” Olson said. 

The adaptation classrooms at Augie have gone through have been swift and pretty remarkable considering the state of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there’s one more semester to go. So, what can students, professors and administrators be doing to ensure that we continue to have a safe and positive learning environment, moving forward?

For students, Olson suggests printing a PDF of online readings or making a checklist. “Do something that will give [students] that kind of physical engagement with the class,” Olson said. 

Students on campus could find benefit from forming small study groups to do school work and taking advantage of the library. Small things will go a long way as the campus community continues to do its best under the current conditions.

The biggest need students have expressed is a need for understanding. Virtual classes and activities can feel isolating, which takes a toll on our university’s collective mental health. 

“I would hope professors to be understanding of all situations, and especially of mental health, because I think that mental health has been a bigger issue with COVID,” freshman Sarah Grimes said. “So, I would just hope that they would be more understanding.”

Other students simply ask that professors don’t alter teaching styles. 

“We’re already having to adjust to masks and a new environment,” Render said, “making sure that we can still understand what they’re teaching is very important.” 

Ultimately, freshman Hannah Kelley said that technology this year has been used to help keep students and staff safe and healthy. 

“Augie has adapted well and has made it as easy and safe as it could be,” Kelley said.

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