Students adapt to online learning, credit professors with transition

Amber Brand
Amber Brand
Meldi Sharpe
Meldi Sharpe
Carly McAuliffe
Carly McAuliffe

Together the University of Wisconsin-Platteville community is working together to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. To adapt to this unprecedented time, UW-Platteville moved to alternative delivery in March and as the spring semester continued the Teaching and Technology Center and the Office of the Provost began preparing for the fall semester.

To assist with these new classroom challenges, the TTC created professional development opportunities for faculty. The summer training courses, titled Level 1 and Level 2, were designed to help instructors develop familiarity with tools that facilitated blended learning while also providing additional resources on designing elements of a blended learning course. Level 2 took a deeper dive into academic technology. More than 90% of UW-Platteville instructors took advantage of these educational opportunities.

“Our faculty care about student learning. They care about creating high quality educational experiences for all of our students,” said Dr. Carolyn Keller, interim assistant provost. “They value their craft of teaching, and they want to provide a good product for all of our students. They want students to have a good experience because they are committed to the institution. They are committed to the Wisconsin Idea that education needs to expand the boundaries of their classrooms and to make sure learning could continue.”

As the fall semester comes to a close, students have adjusted to the virtual format by using different tactics, including sticking to a routine, time management and communicating with their peers.

“I try to work ahead as much as possible, so when I have questions, there will be enough time for me to contact my professors for help before things become due,” said Amber Brand, a senior, triple major in accounting and integrated supply management and management from Kieler, Wisconsin. “I keep to a very strict routine and try to schedule time to take breaks.”

Meldi Sharpe, a junior industrial engineering major from Plant City, Florida, said the majority of her classes have all been online. She has depended on student group chats and fellow members of Alpha Pi Mu in adapting to the virtual changes. 

“I have had to rely on people I have met throughout my college career, especially people in major-based groups,” Sharpe said. “I know for sure there are a lot of different projects and assignments I would not be able to do without that community.”

Although many students miss being in the classroom, this experience is giving elementary education major Carly McAuliffe a new perspective of teaching. Along with having her classes being online, she is also in the process of completing her first practicum.

“I was excited to get out into classrooms and work with students, but doing it virtually gave me a much clearer picture of how different it is to teach online,” said McAuliffe a junior from Freeport, Illinois. “I liked that the same family/student could book a tutoring session with me a few different times and I’d get to see their development similarly to if I was in the classroom with them.”

All three students acknowledge their appreciation of their professors who have helped guide them through this semester. They emphasized how approachable their instructors have been throughout the semester.

“Professors are absolutely fantastic in office hours,” Sharpe said. “I’m appreciative of the great professors I have this semester. They have all been absolutely great. It’s very evident they have been going above and beyond in so many ways to help us learn.”

“They are easy to reach over email or Zoom with any questions, and while that is not the same as in-person office hours, it does the job,” added McAuliffe. “Even though this format is so different than what we are used to, my professors in the School of Education are making the best of our situation.”

Brand also credits her professors in the School of Business in assisting her through the transition. “Some professors have given out their personal cell phone numbers that can be called if students have questions,” she said.

Throughout the semester there have been challenges, but for Brand she said it’s important to be resilient.

“Hard work and determination pay off,” she said. “The way I have responded to online classes proves that just about anything can be thrown at me and I will handle it in the utmost driven and professional manner possible.”

These are lessons McAuliffe will take with her as she embarks on her own teaching career.

“This semester completely opened my eyes to how adaptable teachers are and need to be, especially now, so their students can succeed,” she said. “Teaching was no easy task before virtual learning and now it is a whole other ball game, but to see my professors and other teachers take this challenge head-on is so inspiring. It gave me another huge appreciation for all the hard work teachers do.”

Sharpe is looking forward to being back in the classroom once it’s safe, but for now she will keep carrying on virtually. “In comparison to other semesters, I feel there is quite a bit of more work, but I also feel I’m getting the same level of education I was getting in-person.”