Two professors give their two cents on virtual learning

Professors Gregg Arnold and Daniel Bryan share their mixed feelings about virtual classes and how learning over zoom impacts students.

The switch to virtual learning has left both students and faculty in unexplored territory. Some students thrive in a remote learning environment, while others struggle. Professor Gregg Arnold and Daniel Bryan gave their two cents on what they’ve noticed over the past few quarters.

Gregg Arnold, a Marketing professor, said he personally didn’t face any major conflicts with remote-learning. 

“I found the transition fairly simple in terms of student interaction,” Arnold said. “For instance, just as students would stay after class in person to discuss their specific issues, they did the same on Zoom.”

For Professor Arnold, the student engagement after changing the content was a pleasant surprise.

“There was a lot of work to get the content into an online format, but once done, the classes seemed to go quite similar to in-person,” he said. “I was surprised at how much I felt I got to know students via Zoom versus in person.”

According to Arnold, students can get to know their professors better by turning on their cameras during live sessions.

“The one bit of advice I’d give to students about online is to be present,” he said. “Don’t turn off your live video; being able to see a person adds considerably to communication.”

Not all Professors have a consensus on the effectiveness of remote learning. Accounting Professor Dr. Daniel Bryan said there are some disadvantages to being fully online. 

“Student engagement has been an issue,” he said. “If the lectures are pre recorded, student engagement only comes from office hours and help sections.”  

He explained further, noting that communication difficulties carried over into synchronized classes. 

“For synchronized classes, some students don’t attend and watch the recorded lectures,” he said. “During lectures, a lot of the students use chat to ask questions. I find it hard to manage the chat while lecturing. I get more questions and sometimes miss them when they come up, causing me to backtrack to answer them later.”

Bryan also mentioned that the virtual learning space wasn’t as personable nor engaging to students. “Online lectures also make it harder to talk to students while they are working on in-class activities,” he said. “I can no longer walk around the room to check on students’ progress.”

He noted that students might not receive the bond with professors without a personable and engaging environment or the career advice they would’ve normally received if classes were in-person.

“It is hard for students to build up a rapport with faculty,” Bryan said. “This is especially important for classes in the students’ major. Good rapport opens the door for more complex questions and career advice.”

Bryan said students could make up for what he sees as shortcomings with the remote-learning system by treating them as if they were in-person.

“I think the most successful students treat online courses like in-class courses,” he said. “The most important things are to keep up with the classes, make sure you read the textbook, turn in all graded assignments on time and do recommended work even if not for points.”

Bryan touched on the time-limits of online exams and advised that if students wish to be successful, they should prepare for them as if they were in-person, then encouraged students to take it a step further.

“My advice is to go one step further than the last review. Students should ask themselves questions about the material and try to answer it in their own words.”

Bryan listed several resources, such as the Learning Center and Khan Academy. He then advised students to use office hours wisely.

“To make the best use of office hours, students should have specific questions and not be trying to go fishing for information,” he said. “If it’s related to an assignment, try it first and have specific questions for office hours.” 

Despite some struggles with getting to know his students, Bryan believes that UWT has adjusted well overall to remote learning.

“It has not been as bad as I thought it would be,” he said. “I have had some good students who have moved well to the online structure. They have been asking great questions which have allowed for better explanations and more thorough discussions.”

Although Bryan said he wants to go back to in-person teaching, he will stay proactive to keep his students engaged.

“Moving forward, I can’t wait to get back into the classroom, but I will utilize some of the online tools I have picked up,” Bryan said. “I can see advantages to using online office hours and recording more help videos for projects and assignments.”