The Impact of COVID-19 on Education – The Skyline View

It has been more than 19 months since COVID-19 engulfed the planet. Like most societal institutions, the school system has been in turmoil. Now that the world of education has shifted from a roller coaster to a road with periodic speed bumps and a majority of courses have moved online, instructors are evaluating the adjustments they and their students have made. Invariably, in the midst of challenges, there remains a sense of optimism.

“The pandemic is no joke!” said Dr Michael Cross, professor of English and literature at Skyline College. “We will never go back to ‘business as usual’, as far as I’m concerned, and I urge you all to embrace the idea that this could be a positive eventuality!” “

Each teacher has a different teaching style. Some are more tech savvy and develop course material creatively. Others sought collaborative assistance through the online peer mentoring program offered by the Center for Transformational Teaching and Learning (CTTL). Many teachers with strong classroom skills were reluctant to move to a fully online system. Even those familiar with online education struggled to translate all of their courses (sometimes over 100 students) into the virtual realm.

Kim Saccio is an assistive computing technology specialist who teaches four different computer skills courses for the Education Access Center (EAC). She mentors many other instructors to run classes online, but when it comes to her own classes, she has learned that her own native teaching style is more chaotic than she imagined. She found that having to switch to online education was a bigger task than she expected. This is because without the ability to improvise in a classroom setting, the online class must be extremely organized so that content flows clearly within and between modules.

“In the classroom, I am constantly meeting the needs of the students,” Saccio said. “I have a list of points to cover in each session. How I cover it is entirely up to the students in front of me. It was a little intimidating to go from that totally free, responsive teaching style to the need to create structured CANVAS shells.

In Dr Michael Cross’s class, literary themes are widely explored through tales of monsters: fairy tales, poems and plays. It is not uncommon for the class to sing ancient Greek choirs or discuss bogeymen, greedy children, ogres, baba yagas and insatiable wolves. It can be difficult to fit that much theater into a CANVAS hull, but Cross has proven it can be done without diminished effect.

“At first, I was hesitant to take online training [prior to the pandemic]”Cross said. “I convinced myself that my main strengths as an educator were only manifested ‘in person’, through face-to-face interactions, but I learned that computer screen mediation does not necessarily take away these commitments; rather, online engagement helps me meet students where they are, literally.

Once the initial structural transition was made to complete online learning, the biggest challenge became engaging with students and creating a classroom community. It is easy for students to hide behind a computer screen. That’s why teachers encourage students to wake up their video screens and join in the classroom conversation. However, as Cross admitted, teachers need to be aware that real-life circumstances can make filming a camera truly impossible for some students. They may have to be at work, caring for loved ones, or unwilling to disclose their living conditions.

With community college enrollment dropping nearly 20% during the pandemic, it has become more difficult to maintain a sense of community. Saccio regretted that some students did not respond at all. Many have just fallen from the gate.

“I knew everyone was in pain, and if they didn’t want to communicate with me, there was nothing I could do to help them,” said Saccio, lamenting.

Keenly aware of the need to foster human relationships, Saccio sometimes used her weekly class sessions as simple office hours, sometimes even without addressing the class program itself. This allowed the students to communicate about the problems they encountered beyond the classroom.

When asked if there were any initial mistakes that teachers would make differently, Saccio admitted that there are always mistakes that every teacher makes. She said that with each class you learn and you grow, and in each class you learn something that you could do better. For example, she pointed out that not all students are good at learning from video demonstrations. Students have different learning modalities, and some require readable material. Saccio realized that she had to create “cheat sheets” to provide step-by-step procedures for each major task.

Dr. Cross corroborated the trial and error nature of converting to online education.

“Some strategies that often work well in person fall flat online, while other strategies that might bombard in person work fantastically at the virtual level,” Cross said. “Like everything, you get better by doing, and I’m starting to feel that I really understand how to make this work: now the goal is to translate those lessons into better in-person lessons when I get back. at campus in the spring.

Without a doubt, the online sphere has produced educational methods like HyFlex Learning which will also be useful for classroom teaching. [see article, ‘Is HyFlex Learning a Viable Option?’] Cross said it’s likely that all of his courses will function as hybrid courses in the future, as some skills can just as easily be learned asynchronously. He believes that modifying online content will allow for more engaging, participatory and meaningful class time. The “checklists” that Saccio now offers will now be used regularly for future face-to-face learning. She also believes that the Zoom connection is a valuable tool in any teaching environment.

“When I start teaching face-to-face again, I think I’ll continue virtual office hours,” Saccio said. “A lot of students don’t necessarily want to come to campus just to ask a question, so I think I’ll include an option for virtual hours as well as in person. “

Putting aside the new teaching tools, the question remains whether students can leave with the same mastery of the course material and the same overall understanding of course principles in an online environment as in the classroom. The answer differs from course to course. EAC’s computer skills classes typically have a small number of students with varying needs. Saccio explained how each person learns differently and each teacher teaches differently. Even if a course is beautifully designed, a student who just needs human interaction and does not perform well on a computer will not get anything out of the class. Conversely, a student who works well independently will thrive in a poorly designed online course.
Cross was of the view that online courses can universally provide the same course objectives as classroom learning, but it requires students to be diligent.

“As with everything, I think it depends on how much effort and attention the students put into the experience,” Cross said. “You can get a ton of engagement online as long as you commit to making the effort. “

As for strategies for the future given the uncertainty of the pandemic, the consensus was that the old paradigm had to give way. Cross said that if the status quo didn’t work before the pandemic, we now have the opportunity to reinvent a system that will prioritize the mental and physical well-being of ourselves and our loved ones. Saccio expressed hope that the administration would keep much of the courses online. She said it would be smart to develop a structure to easily switch between online and classroom teaching.

“Where we’re at with Skyline isn’t just COVID,” Saccio said. “The random blackouts, the fires, the air quality — the things that happen on our campus — it’s just crazy, so we really have to find a way to allow the instructors to move on. online instruction when necessary to ensure continuity. It’s a tricky thing to deal with, but I’m sure we can figure it out.

Throughout this COVID crisis, instructors at Skyline have not only developed strategies and learned the intricacies of teaching online, they’ve also learned how flexible and determined their students are.

“Skyline students are amazing human beings! Cross said emphatically. “They juggle and manage incredibly complex social pressures, and I’m constantly impressed and humbled by their resilience and commitment to their dreams! If anyone knows the truly disturbing economic, emotional and psychological consequences of the pandemic, it is our students, without a doubt. However, they refuse to let something as small as a global pandemic get in the way of their goals! They just grind – every day, all day – and I’m really overwhelmed by their courage and determination! “

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