Published: Dec. 29, 2021
By: Masie O’Toole, Kirby Koch and Donald Fountain, LSU Manship School News Service
Bryce Trum sat up in his twin-sized bed at 6:55 a.m. His day of classes at LSU was about to start at 7 a.m., and his classroom was only five feet away.
But as he signed onto the Zoom meeting on his computer, his attention was immediately drawn to his guitar. Six strings on the acoustic guitar leaning up against his eggshell white walls was more enticing than listening to the voice coming through the Alienware laptop on his desk. The instrument created an easy distraction for Trum, and avoiding his online computer science class became second nature.
Trum was not alone as the COVID-19 pandemic thrust college students across the country into the biggest experiment yet with online learning. In a survey of 500 college students across 22 states, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that two-thirds felt they had learned less by having to shift online during the height of the pandemic. Four out of five students said they were more distracted at home than they would have been in a classroom. Other problems included social isolation and difficulties in interacting with other students.
“This was a tsunami that no one saw coming,” the professor, Bernard McCoy, said in releasing the study last July. “Suddenly, it was looming in front of us and washing over us. And so we had to learn how to swim.”
But McCoy also found that as the students got used to going virtual, more than half of them said they would like to have remote learning options available in the future. The students enjoyed the flexibility, saying that they were better able to tailor their schedules to incorporate their jobs and that online instruction saved them time and money.
The shift to online instruction happened suddenly as COVID-19 surged in the spring of 2020, and administrators and professors were just as surprised–and unprepared–as their students for the shift.
Nicole Cotton, a technology specialist at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, said her school rushed to give professors tips on how to teach in the new environment. “We were doing workshops online when most of our faculty had never taught online,” she said.
Kaci Bergeron, the director of Nicholls State’s Student Access Center, said that the students who struggled the most were deaf and blind ones.
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