University ‘pulling together’ while being split by the pandemic

Students and faculty adjust to finish spring semester remotely

With social distancing becoming the new mandatory norm across America, many Waynesburg University students are forced to complete their classes online. Professors are now tasked with instructing their students for the remainder of the semester outside the classroom.

Adam Jack, chairperson for the Criminal Justice and Social Sciences Department, said the adjustment to remote teaching took some time.

“Having never taught in a distance format, I worried a bit about how I would adjust,” Jack said. “But with the assistance provided by the university and roughly 10-12 hours of playing around with Canvas, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc., I am very comfortable with utilizing several different formats to deliver my courses.”

On Monday March 16, students were advised to leave campus for the semester, as the university began transitioning from traditional in-person classes to remote learning. The decision was announced via a statement on Waynesburg’s COVID-19 page from President Douglas Lee.

“All students should now plan to leave campus as soon as possible but no later than Friday, March 20,” Lee said in the statement.

Classes then resumed March 23 in the remote learning format. Thomas Hyland, junior criminal justice administration major, said that the transition did not come without challenges.

“I am more of a hands-on learner, so the transition to doing all work from behind a screen has definitely been a big change,” Hyland said. “Another challenge for me is having four full-time students taking online classes plus my father working from home all under the same roof at the same time. It gets kind of hectic.”

Kent Harkleroad, freshman nursing major, has also had his fair share of adjusting to remote learning.

“The transition to online classes was rough,” Harkleroad said. “I had a lot of personal things that I had to take care of and make sure were in place in order for me to even be able to take the classes, so it definitely wasn’t easy.”

Jack said he has taken different students’ environments into account with his classes and has kept them in mind throughout the process.

“I have received very positive feedback from my students on the synchronous lectures that I have been giving, as well as the asynchronous assignments,” Jack said. “I am trying to use a mix of both approaches to lighten the anxiety of my students in this trying time.”

Jack said he has relied more on assignments and discussion rather than tests to evaluate students’ learning online.

“In the end, the retention of the information is the most important factor here,” Jack said. “Balancing academic rigor with achieving learning objectives is my main focus.”

Hyland said the most difficult part of remote learning for him is not being able to interact with fellow students.

“Not being able to see the friends I’ve made has been difficult,” Hyland said. “I am looking forward to getting back to Waynesburg soon.”

Harkleroad echoed that sentiment, saying, “I miss seeing my friends more than anything.”

Living amidst the spread of COVID-19, Jack said he is impressed by the way the Waynesburg University community has handled the transition.

“I am very proud of how the university, faculty, staff and students have responded to this dramatic change and trying time. We are pulling together like the family that we are and making the best of a very tough situation,” Jack said. “The countless hours behind the scenes that everyone is putting in is a testament to the dedication to the mission of the university.”