Auburn University students will finish their last month of school through online lectures and Zoom meetings. Since each student learns differently, this could present some challenges, educators say.
Auburn University’s Parent and Family Association held a Facebook chat Wednesday evening to make all students aware of how they can best transition to remote learning. It also provided a chance for parents to ask a wide range of questions about how Auburn plans to handle its operations in the next several months.
The online challenge
Remote instruction began for Auburn University on Monday, after the spring break, to curb the spread of the coronavirus. It will continue until the end of classes.
Lady Cox, assistant vice president for student engagement, and Torey Palmer, program administrator for the Auburn University Parent and Family Association, took questions from parents on the Facebook Live chat.
Professors are teaching classes in different ways during this time, and classes can be held synchronously or asynchronously, Palmer said.
“Synchronous delivery, which means everybody’s logging in at the same time, and it’s like a lecture and you’re all in person but you’re social distancing, potentially across the country,” he said.
Other professors are choosing to upload a lecture and allow students to watch it at their leisure, which is asynchronous learning, he said.
Cox said the Biggio Center and the Office of Information and Technology are also providing resources for students on the different apps and forms of technology on their websites.
Some schools and colleges within the university sent messages to students early on about how to best deal with working remotely.
The Harbert College of Business shared a Facebook post Monday with communication and technology advice.
Students will be using technology such as Canvas, Zoom, Panopto and Virtual Lab during this time, and the college provided numbers and emails for students to reach out to with questions (phone: 334-844-2963; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The College of Liberal Arts created a step-by-step guide on Instagram with instructions for students. The guide can be found in the college’s Instagram story highlight: Apps 4 Class.
The highlight shared instructions for downloading Duo, Zoom, Panopto, Canvas and Box. A second story highlight was dedicated to tips for online learning.
The College of Liberal Arts also shared a tweet Wednesday afternoon offering tech support.
“(Auburn Office of Information Technology) is now offering a Zoom room to help troubleshoot any problems you may have with tech for class,” the tweet said. “The room is open from 8:30-4:30 and all you have to do is go to the http://aub.ie/sdhelp link to get connected.”
Students who experience difficulties should screenshot their problems and immediately contact their professors, Palmer said.
“It’s important that you document that,” Cox said, “and send it as soon as that’s happening. So if that’s happening, if it’s a situation where the professor streams the class real time, the student needs to send the email right then so that the professor has it and it’s documented that that’s what’s happening.”
Any students who don’t have access to technology, like a laptop, should contact the Biggio Center (email@example.com), Palmer said.
“Additionally, I also know … the bookstore is going to be sending out an email to faculty and staff to do a survey of their students’ technology needs,” he said.
“My son’s been doing fine academically so far, but now he feels like he’s struggling in this new format,” said a parent. “What can I do to help him?”
Palmer said the office has received this question a lot.
“This is new for everyone,” he said. “Not everyone learns in the same way. As we’re working with students in a situation where they’re not understanding content, in many ways this is very similar to if they had been in the classroom and they had suddenly run into a roadblock with their understanding of material.”
Palmer recommended students contact their professors for help.
“We’re learning as well, those of us that are creating content and putting it online too, and so just be as patient as you can,” Cox said.
The university’s academic support office also has begun to help students remotely, Palmer said.
“They are providing a lot of their standard services now online through the Zoom platform as well,” he said. “Their website (aub.ie/academicsupport) has been updated to show how to get in touch with each of their big three programs: study partners, supplemental instruction and academic coaching.”
Some students may have difficulty with time management, Palmer added, especially with the asynchronous classes.
“Many of your students have probably developed a routine that hopefully has been kind of working for them through fall semester and now spring and suddenly we’re in an environment where a faculty member might have recorded their lecture and they’re saying you can watch it any time on this day, just be sure to watch it,” Palmer said.
“And focusing not just on those academic skills, but encouraging and talking about the value of time management during this period of when it might feel like there’s even more down time than there really is,” he said.
One question asked if there was advice for students who feel that professors have just been handing out busywork.
Cox recommended patience, again, as professors and instructors learn how to deal with the new normal as well.
Palmer said he hoped that no professors were just handing out work that would not be beneficial, but work during this time could be used to give everyone a chance to get used to the new medium.
“If your student is struggling with the volume, again, their best resource and their best outreach, at least at the first step, is to work with the faculty member directly,” he said. “Explain where they’re coming from; ask for insight as to why maybe a particular assignment has been assigned.
“It would be my hope that as we all get more used to having to provide content from all across the country, that we would get better at designing and implementing strategies for making sure that the work is meaningful.”
Cox, who teaches public speaking at the university, said that some of her in-class assignments she would normally hold may seem like busy work to her students now.
Things like this take time to figure things out, she said, especially at the start.
The College of Science and Mathematics has a website prepared to answer all student questions on registration, classes and more but also to provide academic help.
Students who have questions about their subjects, such as biology, chemistry, math or physics can join a Slack channel.
The drop-in center will also have remote appointments through Zoom. The meeting app also will be used for COSAM tutoring at different times, all of which can be found on the website (https://auburn.edu/cosam/about/online_resources.htm?fbclid=IwAR19HmViLiwWeB4LZkoxXp97lIGAS-sj6yOdZKgcw5iCGVwDepTv1PIvrNc).
Registration is upon students, but without the ability to meet with their advisers, changes are being made.
“Just as campus courses are being delivered remotely, the Office of Academic Advising will be advising students remotely,” said the Harbert College of Business’ Facebook post. “Be assured that your academic advisor will continue to work with you, though remotely rather than in person. As we transition to a new environment, we ask for your patience. Initial response times could be longer than usual; however, your adviser will respond.”
Online appointments will be made and can be conducted through email or Zoom. Time tickets are already shared with students as well.
COSAM has a chat room that its students can use.
“If students have questions for COSAM advisors, attend online “walk-in” hours during 9-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday,” its website said. “Students can join the Zoom meeting with this ID: 931-603-7932. This is a CHAT room only. No video or audio.
“Please click on the Chat function at the bottom to type your question.”