Christine Gentile is a student in the 100% online Leadership & Organizational Studies major at UW Oshkosh. Read her message of encouragement for all of the Titans who are just beginning their journey into online education:
We are all going through some crazy times right now with how our lives have been uprooted because of COVID-19. In many of my conversations with others, people are just trying to consume what is happening and don’t know what to do. They are navigating through the situation the best way they know how. What makes it even more scary is the feeling of not knowing when it is going to end. Now fold in all the students who are being asked to change their educational learning environment from interacting and socializing with friends, professors, and other students everyday in a classroom or while walking around campus to changing by learning and engaging all online.
I am sure some of you feel that changing to online classes won’t be as enriching or as beneficial. My experiences have been completely opposite.
I have held a professional career for over thirty years, primarily learned through interacting with friends, colleagues, and in-person formalized training. About two years ago, I too experienced a drastic educational learning curve when I decided to earn my bachelor’s degree entirely through online courses. I have always been the type of person who preferred to learn in a classroom, so I was very apprehensive on whether I would be successful in strictly learning and socializing with classmates through online courses.
From day one, I had a ton of help pointing me in the right direction. My advisor familiarized me with getting courses scheduled. I had access to a strong support system and assistance from my professors, which made my online learning experience both positive and educational.
Even though my courses are online, professors are constantly advocating and promoting engagement between classmates. Online discussion posts really promote interaction, idea sharing and hearing different points of view. Having the ability to learn new technology through my online courses and using them to communicate with others has been very beneficial and effective. I was able to give speeches and share them with my classmates for feedback, which gave me new ideas on how I can become a better speaker and communicator. These are the same benefits you get by engaging in a classroom.
Another huge benefit in taking online courses is the flexibility of not having to commit to going to class at a certain time everyday. It gives you the opportunity to create your own schedule, but it still provides an engaging experience.
Some ideas to help you transition to online learning are really not that much different than taking in person classes.
Plan early, get an understanding of your professors expectations by reading over the syllabus, get a good grasp of the class schedule and figure out the best way on how to engage and communicate with other classmates and more importantly your professors. Every professor is different, so it is best to get to know their expectations early on.
Over-communicate, if you have any misunderstanding on assignments or course expectations communicate them to your professor early and often. They will appreciate the constant engagement and interest in wanting to be successful in the course.
Again, make sure you get a good understanding of the course schedule. This will really help you plan out your time each week to adequately fit in course assignments. Planning ahead will help in reducing stress, create high quality results on homework, prepare for tests, and successfully balance both your personal life and job responsibilities.
Adapting to being at home more than usual and not having a typical social life is a drastic change for all us. It can give you a feeling of loneliness and anxiety. The only way to tackle these feelings head on is to stay positive and develop ways to stay connected with others. What makes it easier is because nowadays there are many ways we can stay connected with others.
My mom lives alone and is elderly. It is very important to me and my siblings that we check in and reach out more often than usual. In fact I just talked to her the other day about using Google Duo, a video calling app giving her the ability to physically see and talk to her friends and family. When I shared the idea, she loved it and can’t wait for me to get her set up.
I am pushing my co-workers to use video chat now that we are all working remote. I remind them that I am not here to judge and we are all in this together, which gives them a sense of comfort promoting a more open, down to earth environment, as if we were connecting in person. Even Ellen Degeneres is posting videos on Facebook of her hanging out in sweats at home with no makeup calling her friends, showing humble, practical personal experiences and challenges of being quarantined. These are just a few examples of how we are all having a hard time and need to take the extra step to stay connected socially and keep positive through these unknown times.
I believe that because of the awesome support system at UW Oshkosh, students can succeed in their education regardless of how it is delivered. I have confidence in both the faculty and staff as they are keeping your best interest at heart by providing the most positive and engaging learning environment because of their passion in wanting to see all students achieve their educational goals. It is amazing how we have created technology allowing us to keep our busy lives going, stay engaged socially with others, and have an education even though we are stuck within the confines of our homes.
Again, stay positive and push to stay connected with others. It will only help you both physically and mentally while getting through these hard times.