Gusties learn to shine online during finals

As we approach the end of the semester, finals week begins to rear its heads as both students and professors – whether on or off campus – prepare. Final exams begin on Dec. 11 and last through Dec. 15 this year, with the last day of class being on Dec. 9.
Professor in Political Science and program director of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Jillian Locke discussed how she has seen changes to her classes and how moving into online learning has affected her teaching. “[There’s been] less lecturing and more just…trying to get all the students to have an opportunity to participate. Every day I have been trying to do that with chat and breakout rooms…In some ways it is easier to do that, that’s one positive [of online learning],” Locke said.
Locke also reflects on her home life now that she teaches from home.
“The upside of being at home is that I get to see my kids more than I normally would, my dog is also happy. My carbon footprint has gone way down, gas expenses have been down. There is a kind of convenience that was initially quite pleasant…But now, I am ready to be back in person. I miss moving my body, lingering after class, hearing student conversations,” Locke said.
And the feeling is mutual amongst some students, such as Leif Hammar, a junior here at Gustavus.
“I was happy to stay on campus for a bit. I had about a month to myself which was really nice, and even though I couldn’t hang out with friends in ways I wanted to, just being able to see them on campus was a huge emotional boost that was missing in virtual classes,”Hammar said.
Virtual classes, which have become an integral part of Gustavus’ learning environment, have had varying effects on everyone. “I would say that online learning is more difficult than in person…I have been leaning heavily on scheduling and setting personal deadlines for myself, [and while] I am not perfect at it, but it is better than nothing” Hammar said.
Yet not everyone has an easy time with virtual learning. While it is a struggle for most students, those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia must deal with a new format and their own disability. Freshman Jake O’Neal has dyslexia and shared some insight on what it is like for him.
“Honestly, I’m not confident about how I will do on my finals in an online format. I would like to think that I will do well on my finals, but I know I am not as prepared as I should be. Overall, I certainly prefer an in person learning environment. The main reason being that I find it harder to stay engaged in an online zoom class and often find myself getting distracted. Dyslexia has only made online learning marginally harder because it is harder for me to read off a computer screen than a sheet of paper or a book” O’Neal said.
The same can be said for many other students, which is why many professors such as Professor Locke have opted to give students more time to focus on finals.
“I didn’t have to change anything from in person to online, but I have made significant adjustments to my papers just to give them more time. Due to covid, there has been incidents that require moving or perhaps just a bit more time…Students do not need the extra stressors. This is not the time to be super rigid. it is sad, I feel for the seniors and freshman. This was not the year they probably wanted to come into or leaving college…But [we] try to do the best we can with covid,” Locke said.
The consensus between students is that professors have been understanding of any extenuating circumstances that may come up. During finals week, if there are any concerns about time constraints or a need for an extension, approach your professors and discuss with them something that works for you.

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