Many of us are navigating new terrain beginning this week, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts as we move forward.
Some thoughts for the new reality of online, at-home learning
1. Your student is not home for break, and don’t treat it as such.
Your student is still carrying a full course load and class schedule. They may have a class scheduled during your normal family dinner time. They are not going to be able to supervise younger siblings all day. They may not be available to drop off groceries for Grandma. That’s not to say they shouldn’t help with things around the house. I will expect my college students to empty the dishwasher, help with the laundry, etc. But make sure that you are making requests when they are truly available and respect their schedule.
We are entering the most stressful time of the semester with final projects, papers, and course material that is at its peak difficulty. We are asking them to navigate new online systems that they may not have used before. On top of that they have been displaced from their normal routine, their social interactions, their campus resources, etc. Many of them (especially seniors) are grieving the loss of anticipated spring performances, sporting events, and campus activities that they have been working toward all semester/year. Some of them have lost the opportunity to say goodbye to senior friends.
3. Make sure they have the resources they need to be successful.
To the best of your ability, make sure they have a place to work where the rest of the family knows to leave them alone. Do they have the computer/Internet connection they need to do their work? Have they retrieved all of the necessary textbooks, notes, etc. from their dorm room? If that’s not feasible, have them check with their professor about online access to the text. Many publishers are providing free Ebook access during the pandemic.
4. Remember, they are not in high school anymore.
They do not need you to remind them when they have assignments due, and you don’t need to tell them when they should start studying for the next exam or writing that paper that is due tonight. They are adults and fully capable of managing their workload.
5. Just a warning, college students have really weird working and sleep schedules.
It is not uncommon for them to schedule a meeting with team members at 9 or 10 pm, and prime study time for most is after dark. Just let them do what works for them and remind them to shut the lights off when they finally do go to sleep.
6. Discourage them from getting together with local college and old high school friends.
If you have a social butterfly like I do, they are going to want to be with others. But the whole reason that we are doing this is to keep people apart. Reassure them that in a few weeks, when the coronavirus cases start to decline, they will be able to go out and do things with friends. For now, stay home as much as possible. And (I never thought I’d say this) encourage social interaction through the phone that’s always attached to their hands for the immediate future.
Most of all, enjoy having your kids back under your roof for a while. Stay healthy!
P.S. Remind them to be kind to their professors. Most of us have had a week or less to completely revise our classes, assignments, and assessments to an online platform. We are using technology that we have never used or never used in this way. Many of us also have children home from college, school, or daycare – or elderly parents that we are concerned about. We will do our absolute best to provide your students with the quality education they deserve, but we will make some mistakes and some things we try are going to fall flat. Be patient, we’ll get through it together.
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Dr. Laura S. Zapanta is a lecturer who received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1998 from the Pennsylvania State University and joined the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biological Sciences Department in 2008.