Online learning versus in-tents perspective

Shelsea Deravil,

 Being physically back on campus has allowed many of us students to complete our college experience. It is quite a privilege because not too many colleges are handling COVID-19 like Ursinus College. The current state of Ursinus education, however, does give me mixed feelings. While some classes that are strictly lecture-based can function just fine remotely, others that rely on in-person interactions (e.g. science labs, film screenings, art courses) may not translate as easily. Taking a science lab and film course this semester myself, I struggle with the remote atmosphere. Especially in my New Hollywood film course with Dr. Alice Leppert — associate professor of Media and Communications and Film Studies, and whom I have had for other previous film courses — the film screenings are just not the same virtually. When previous classes came together for weekly screenings, we analyzed the films and the audience around us simultaneously. Now, I must wait until the next class meeting to learn people’s reactions to the assigned screenings instead of hearing them in the moment. Dr. Leppert agrees that the film courses are missing out on the social aspect. “Teaching remotely has necessitated some adjustments to how I teach film,” Leppert said. “I have always loved hosting group film screenings, I think it’s a great way for the class to bond and see films how they were intended to be seen — on a big screen in a group, all in one sitting — as opposed to watching alone on a computer with multiple tabs open and the ability to pause any time you want.” Additionally, “I’ve had to get creative with showing clips during synchronous and asynchronous sessions, and students have to watch the films on their own.” Although I personally have no issues with watching films alone and online — since I already do so, and watching alone allows me to rewind and analyze as much as I’d like — screening required films as a class was a thrill. This is something we film students will have to miss out on for a while. Dr. Simara Price, assistant professor, lab coordinator, and assistant dean of the college, made similar remarks about biology. The pandemic has “requir[ed] me to make some changes to my teaching style. I’ve sent lab kits home to my remote students for things I feel are safe to try remotely but there are some things — like working with bacteria — that just aren’t going to work outside of the lab in the same way.” Luckily, most students taking Dr. Price’s BIO-151 African Diasporic course, including me, are able to meet in-person for lectures and labs, making them just as engaging as they were pre-pandemic. Professor Rebecca Lyczak, chair of the Biology department, also chimed in about her bio courses. “The guidelines have certainly influenced my teaching. I usually like to move freely around the classroom and have students working closely in groups. I have made the best of the situation by having students on Zoom work in groups and students in the classroom form distanced groups where they can still hear each other.” I will say I do enjoy my film class at night and on Zoom, maybe because it matches with the mood of screening a late-night film.