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The Difficulty of going Digital: Online Learning Forces Classes to get Creative or Make Serious Cuts | The Gustavian Weekly

By Marie Osuna - Staff Writer | March 25, 2020 | News

As Gusties are all too aware, class plans have been changing quickly. Due to the suspension of in-person classes, as announced last week, professors have been scrambling to re-arrange class schedules, assignments and projects. However, due to the nature of Gustavus’ hands-on learning approach, this has been extremely difficult for various departments.
Classes such as those in the theatre/dance department, ACT/FIT credits, art and science labs have been quickly re-arranging how they conduct class online. It has forced many professors and students to get creative in their use of technology.
Junior Dance and Psychological Science Major Katie Rhoten explained how the dance department is thinking about using apps such as TikTok to share their movements.
“Our professors are working hard to develop a new curriculum and opportunities to continue to offer us a meaningful dance education and exploration while we are all in different settings at home. I imagine that I will be recording a lot of movement and sending it to the class, particularly in regards to compositional creations/creating dances while at home,” Rhoten said. “I am interested to see if we do utilize TikTok and how that will work. I personally have never made a TikTok or used the app before, but it could be a fun and innovative way to share our creations and movement with the class.”
While the dance department has the possibility of working from home, that’s just not possible for others.
“While final decisions have not been made, there is virtually no way to conduct high-quality organic labs remotely,” Professor of Organic Chemistry Scott Bur said in an email to his students.
However, Bur plans to move forward with the class as best he can online, asking his students to be patient and remember that no one signed up for these trying times.
“To paraphrase Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings, we do not get to choose the times in which we live; we can only choose what we do with the time. These are unusual times, and our responses cannot be usual. We will do our best, and our best will have to do,” Bur said.
For students involved in ACT/FIT classes, this time is an opportunity for them to learn how to manage their own fitness from home. Professors plan to post workout plans or provide video links, and students will complete the workouts on their own time and write reflections about how it went.
Music majors are still in a transition period, with little information being relayed about how they are going to be moving forward. Right now, it seems the only things they do know are about what has been canceled.
“All recitals have been canceled and the ones that were graduation requirements have been waived. The wind orchestra’s tour has been canceled along with all other ensemble performances and rehearsals,” Junior Music Education Major Thomas Prahl said.
Since plans for graduation have not yet been announced, Prahl is waiting for information about that as well.
“The wind orchestra performs commencement ceremony music every year and stays on campus during senior week for rehearsal. This year, if the senior class returns for commencement, will the band have to return as well?” Prahl said.
Overall, these times have been an adjustment for so many students who are used to Gustavus’ on-campus, hands-on approach to learning. Education majors who were student teaching had their time in the classroom cut short. Study abroad students were sent home (or are stuck abroad and struggling to get home). Previously ‘required’ lab or other practical hours are going to become more flexible given the unusual circumstances. Just about everyone has a much-anticipated event (or several) that has been canceled due to the pandemic. But one thing is universal across all majors: professors are asking for grace as they make these adjustments with students.
“You did not sign up for an online education, and I respect that. I did not sign up to teach an online class, and I hope you can respect that. Together, those two things mean we have to have a lot of grace with each other moving forward,” Bur said.

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