The Other Side of the Coin: BU Professors Discuss Their Struggles with Online Learning

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Syeda Saberi – News Editor

The switch from in person learning to online learning has taken a toll on students and faculty alike. While several students have voiced their concerns with tuition charges and altered learning experiences, faculty have also had their share of hurdles.

Students have been frustrated with the workload and state that professors have made things more difficult than previous semesters. With synchronous classes and asynchronous video lectures, many students are having difficulties managing the multiple tasks at hand.

“With online learning, it is a bit difficult to develop a schedule and to stick with it. With life and other responsibilities, it is hard to predict what the day will look like,” stated Sanampreet Bhullar, a health science student at Benedictine

Professors, on the other hand, state that their schedules have undergone drastic changes as well.

“I am on my computer starting at 9 am and am unable to get away from it till sometimes 6 pm.  In an attempt to accommodate more students, I have increased my office hours to include time in the morning and sometime in the evening almost every day. I do my class preparations and grading after 10 pm and sometimes all the way till 1 or 2 am,” stated Dr. Jayashree Sarathy, a physiology professor, whose quality family time has been reduced to the hours of 7 to 9 pm.

Other concerns among students include the lack of feedback from professors as students wait to calculate their grades heading into finals week.

“Professors are doing their utmost to learn best practices and tools required to make virtual learning as beneficial to students as possible. We want to make sure that we are not compromising student learning in any way.  Not all of us are technologically savvy and are doing our best to learn and multitask,” explained Dr. Sarathy. “While doing so, we are spending a lot of time attending workshops and meetings. This takes away time that we normally spend grading and providing detailed feedback. In fact, many of us catch up on our work and grading over the weekend, when we should be trying to relax with the family. This could be the reason for the slight delay in posting grades or lectures.”

“[There is also] a sense of loneliness as we trudge through the semester from our own homes and missing the buzz of busy office hours, classroom setting and coffee with colleagues. The same situation for students as learning from home can become lonely and I worry that this will slowly, but steadily, erode the passion or desire to learn,” mentioned Dr. Sarathy.

Several professors agree that the online learning module cannot compare to learning in-person.

 “You’ll never convince me, never, ever, ever that online education for undergraduates is as effective as physically in-person,” said Dr. Phil Hardy, Political Science Department Chair, “People are so thirsty for campus time, class time, hallway time, and those are things we took for granted.”

“It is hard to instruct students remotely in the same manner as we do in person and maintain the same amount of participation,” said Dr. Sarathy, “I worry about the motivation level of students as they transition from classrooms designed to promote learning to their homes where there can be plenty of distractions.”

Upperclassmen agree with this statement as they recollect their freshman year of college.

“The freshmen are missing out on the classroom experience,” said Matt Orozco, an RA and Accounting major. He worries that some students are slacking and that this will have a long-term effect, “They already have these bad habits of not showing up to class, not listening, which is what freshmen do, but now it’s even worse, because you’re in your own room, probably on your bed, and your roommate is playing Xbox.”

Provost Kenneth Newbold states that faculty and administration have been striving towards providing the most authentic learning experience while keeping everyone’s needs in mind.

“Our faculty have worked very hard to give students the best experience possible,” said Newbold, “As we watched the virus trends over the summer months we had talked about how we worked with our faculty to design courses that would incorporate an online and in-person courses. I feel like we have learned a lot in what we need to do to be intentional in our community”

“Having an open communication with each other can help in these situations, with professors communicating and posting updates on D2L and students attending office hours or emailing the professor about their challenges. Most professors realize the amount of stress students are in and are accommodating and flexible with deadlines. We are open to conversing with and helping our students,” stated Dr. Sarathy.

When asked what she looks forward to for the upcoming semester, Dr. Sarathy stated: “Seeing the smiling faces of students, faculty and staff and being in the buzz of a classroom setting.”

“In any teaching and learning environment, you want to have clarity. Students want to know what they’re being expected to do in a class and when deadlines are and a well-structured course.” stated Dr. Hardy “What I’ll look to do over my break and even thinking about it now is to be better in the spring than I was in the fall. Do it better. Be more organized. Have more clarity. Be even funnier. Be more creative.”