Adjusting to Remote Instruction

How online learning has impacted GCC students

With Covid-19 shutting down schools across the country, colleges were forced to move to remote instruction and adapt in record-time. This past spring semester seemed like a trial run for remote instruction. At the start of the fall semester of 2020, President David Viar announced that the next winter session and spring semester will continue with online learning. “When it became obvious that this was going to be a long-term situation, we recognized that we did have a choice in how we responded. We chose to shift from surviving to thriving,” said Viar. This decision was made to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff. Although some professors had no problem transitioning to online classes, others had difficulty adapting their curriculums to the new modality. . 


Many classes are not designed to be taught online, such as Biology or Chemistry. Indeed, the thought of participating in a lab section for an online class probably seems unrealistic or maybe even impossible for some. “Labs are a crucial part of understanding the material we learn in lecture through application, and without the in-person experience, labs don’t provide the same level of understanding and practice,” said Tenny Zakarian, a third-year communications major.

Due to the unforeseen circumstances, instructors of these courses have had to learn to adjust their classes to be  taught remotely. Some instructors record themselves doing the labs for students to watch and write their lab reports. 


Students have had to adjust to learning exclusively from home. Those who live with family members who also work or learn from home have faced difficulties. These issues can range from lack of space and privacy to noise and interruptions. Other students have access concerns when it comes to computers and internet connection.


Most professors encourage students to turn on their cameras and microphones, rather than responding through the chat option, but many students don’t feel comfortable having those features on and the issue is being widely debated. Students may feel anxious about being in front of a camera for hours and having their classmates see their home environment. Others may be attending class in a noisy environment where other family members are also working. Nevertheless, for the professors teaching the course, cameras allow for a more engaging atmosphere that better mimics a real-life interaction in a classroom than a grid full of black boxes. “I prefer to teach in-person classes. For me personally, the hardest thing is to generate discussion and engagement on zoom. I use many of the recommended tools and methods but it just isn’t the same,” said Dr. Cameron Hastings, who also serves as the co-chair of Political Science.


Although remote instruction has proven to be challenging, it does seem to be beneficial for students. “There were certain time periods during the day that students really wanted classes and we didn’t have enough classrooms… [with] remote synchronous instruction we don’t have to have a classroom, we can provide that learning experience for students at whatever time they need,” said Dr. Michael Ritterbrown, GCC Vice President of Instructional Services. 


With remote synchronous instruction students have the opportunity to ask questions in real-time, rather than waiting for a response from their professor through email. A bulk of students seem to prefer remote instruction due to their work schedules and other responsibilities. However, in a survey conducted by GCC 8% of students reported that remote instruction is not working for them. This may be due to technological challenges, which GCC has offered to help with. Resource distribution, which includes art kits, laptops, chrome books, webcams, and hotspots, are offered to every student.


In terms of what remote instruction at GCC will look like in the future, “The most feasible answer to providing high-quality instruction is remote synchronous instruction,” said Dr. Michael Ritterbrown, GCC Vice President of Instructional Services. 


Serene Janian can be reached at [email protected]