DU Graduate Students Weigh in on Online Learning

DU Graduate Students Weigh in on Online Learning

By: Christine Hood, OTL Graduate Assistant, and Nicole Perez, OTL Graduate Assistant

We are graduate students in the Office of Teaching and Learning, and we have written this blog to share what our online learning experiences have been thus far in the quarter. We can tell that our professors have worked very hard to make our online classes engaging for us, but it is always nice to share and highlight what feels supportive for us to continue thriving in class. We hope you find our perspective helpful.

What We Wish Professors Knew…

  • We are convinced that the Pass+/Pass/Fail option has been the most accommodating and BIGGEST weight off of our shoulders!
  • We are feeling overwhelmed and anxious by the global health crisis
  • We have more work now than we did when classes were in person
  • We are juggling school, work, family and social responsibilities virtually, and it’s not always easy
  • We want social connection; isolation is hard.
  • We appreciate engaging conversations with our professors and peers that don’t pertain to class
  • We can still see your body language over Zoom
  • We hope that you will try to be as accessible as possible (i.e. set office hours times, clear preferred mode of communication)
  • We find it supportive to have the option of talking with you over the phone, our internet bandwidth isn’t always great
  • We believe clear expectations are more important now than ever (i.e. rubrics, instructions, outlines)
  • We are grateful for flexibility with our mistakes as we are transitioning to something brand new
  • We feel that motivation is waning as the quarter and lock-down progresses
  • We are feeling shorter attention spans because of the collective trauma of the pandemic, and so many abrupt changes to our everyday life
  • We appreciate assignments that don’t require screen time

What Helps Us Stay Engaged

  1. Provide Breaks: ensure that we don’t lose focus and have time to take care of ourselves

“Without a break I struggle to stay focused on course content.”

    • Designate a “class-break-monitor” and check-in with the class about fatigue level
    • Identify break times before class, and let students know when to expect these breaks
  1. Asynchronous Time: consider assignments that we can do off-line and COUNT toward class hours!

“Between other responsibilities and mental health, sometime synchronous isn’t the best option”

3. Relevant Content: to our current lives/the current pandemic

“When my professors focus on content pertaining to our current situation it feels more salient and therefore I am more enthusiastic about engaging.”

4. Class Announcements: with all classes moving online, we receive updates from professors via emails and student announcements that can quickly become overwhelming! Because of the number of announcements, we may miss some of this information.

“With so many announcements for each class, it is easy to miss something important and that adds a lot of stress to my day.”

    • Announcing during class may be a helpful way to ensure that students do not miss any information
    • It is helpful to have reminders of due dates, assignments, and expectations.
    • Help us know what to look for in the next class or between classes
    • Canvas Guide on Announcements

5. Try something new: we appreciate it when you mix it up and surprise us with breaking up class time with time for interaction, discussions, polls, and content that feels fresh.

“Just like in-person, the more you mix it up the more exciting class can be!”

    • Try a Kahoot
    • Polls in Zoom
    • Whiteboard activity to start up class
    • Humor that relates to lived experiences or course content (i.e. memes, cartoons, jokes)

6. Breakout rooms for small group discussion and to enable time for students to talk to their peers (put the discussion questions in the chat)

“Getting time to talk to my peers about class material helps me to better understand content and allows me to maintain a sense of community.”

    • Setting up block times for small groups to meet with the professor during class time, and allowing other groups to take a break during that time.
    • Because microaggressions and other harmful interactions can occur in group discussions, we appreciate it when our professors acknowledge and address comments that are inappropriate or hurt others.

7. Request feedback about what feels supportive for us to learn in your class, and what we would benefit from.

“Helps me to feel that my voice is heard and gives me hope that the class structure will become more efficient for all of us.”


OTL Resources:

“I Wish” Student Video


Teaching Through a Pandemic

Mitigating Increasing Inequity

Structuring Distance Learning

Canvas Discussion Tool

Ways to Meet Instructional Time in an Online Format


Outside Resources:

Tips & Tricks: Teachers Educating on Zoom

Using Zoom to Teach Your Class Online