Remote learning challenges SHU, professors get creative with courses

Silence fills the Seton Hall dorm rooms and academic buildings. The campus sits still awaiting the return of the campus community. The future seems uncertain, but one thing remains clear — class is still in session.  

Amid the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., Seton Hall announced it would continue remote learning for the remainder of the spring semester on March 18. This unprecedented change led to many professors altering their plans for the semester. However, for some professors, it continues to be a challenge to adapt to this new learning environment, especially for courses that are not designed to be online-only like labs, art and yoga.

In-person meditations and relaxation are a thought in the past. For Claire Diab, a professor of Asian Studies, this pivot to online learning brings a unique twist to her course called Zen and Yoga. 

Prior to the transition, a student experienced a fresh learning environment. Diab said she tried to create a modern-day learning experience, one dedicated to order and peace. She attempted to create a space — one filled with natural light, desks and chairs nicely aligned—for students to digress from the stress of life.

Julian Manzano, a senior finance and marketing major, said he enjoyed the normal class routine. He said that every class they would start deep breathing exercises and meditate before the lecture started. For Manzano, this was the highlight of each class. 

“I liked meditating in the class because it was a better environment to do it,” Manzano said. “I cannot concentrate and meditate at home.”

Like Manzano, some students are sharing similar setbacks as it relates to the transition to virtual sessions, with many struggling to find adequate environments to learn. 

“I find it hard to concentrate at home because my house is small and I only have my room as a somewhat quiet place,” Manzano said. 

The lack of a suitable workspace and constant distractions is proving difficult for some students, Diab said. With this transition, students are beginning to confide in her with their challenges. Diab said that a female student revealed that she did not have a bedroom to work in as she shares a bedroom, and there is a lack of space with her family there. For Manzano, the lack of an adequate work environment is a major issue for the class as he finds it hard to concentrate and meditate in his house.  

“Online everyone is working in different environments, so what I found for many of them is that a lot of students are in environments where the family members are loud, they are sharing computers, but we made the best of it,” Diab said. “I commend everyone for doing the best that they can during these stressful times.”

She added that the coronavirus came quickly, but instead of moping around, students must accept these uncertain times. Accepting the uncertainty, she said, will allow students to gain more energy, which will result in creative ways to get through these tough times.

These troubling times have brought new changes to learning. Manzano said the class follows their normal routine with breathing and meditation exercises, however, the class has become centered around remaining calm during this turbulent time. With the cancelation of in-person classes, rescheduling of commencement and a plethora of other situations, Diab quickly went to teach about the principle of uncertainty. 

“I definitely talked about change and how to embrace uncertainty because sometimes in life things come up,” Diab said. “Sometimes life brings upon certain things that are out of our control. When things change, you cannot blame people; you have to come up with a creative response.”

Professors teaching other courses that are not designed to be online-only, like labs, art and production classes, are adapting to virtual classes and developing creative ways to continue the course. For the Studio Production course taught by William Pace, faculty associate of digital media production, many students are expressing praise for his ability to change the course.

“Professor Pace had to think of everything on the fly and became flustered, so he became more open to hearing how he should teach the class and accommodate the class,” Lianne Joseph, a senior public relations major, said. “One big difference is that the class has become a more collaborative class, it was a big adjustment for all of us.”

Both Joseph and Manzano said they are not fond of the transition to online courses as they find it difficult to concentrate. Joseph mentioned that her poor Wi-Fi connection is the main reason for her disdain for online classes. Plus, she said she dislikes online classes as she thinks it takes away from the learning experience. 

In response to these turbulent times, Diab said she tries to be there for her students and implores all students to remain positive through these unprecedented times.

“I am here for them always and forever and that will always be true,” Diab said, “and I will see them in the future.”

Nicholas Hernandez can be reached at nicholas.hernandez@student.shu.edu

Author: Nicholas Hernandez

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