Student Reflections on Their Online Learning Experiences

On November 6th, ASPC and ITS hosted “Student Reflections on Their Online Learning Experiences,” following the release of an ASPC report that detailed the difficulties students have faced this semester. The event, which was co-sponsored by the Teaching and Learning Committee, fostered a constructive discussion about online learning at Pomona College. Student panelists provided anecdotes about their experience and suggestions for faculty; faculty were given the opportunity to talk openly with students and ask questions. The highlight of the event was breakout rooms where students and faculty were able to converse on a smaller scale and more personal level.

Several themes arose from the discussion, the first being the difficulties of creating an academic community without requiring more zoom time. Another key concern was how to best accommodate students and make learning accessible for all, considering the broad range of situations this semester. Finally, the discussion focused on how Zoom fatigue, or generalized burnout from looking at screens so often, be prevented without inhibiting learning goals.

The overall consensus was that online learning is challenging and that this semester has been an imperfect solution to remedy the loss of a vibrant academic community. However, both students and faculty were able to share what has and has not been working in terms of creating a valuable learning experience. Some suggestions for faculty include:

  • Record lectures in podcast form when possible. This allows students to listen to the content without spending more time looking at a screen.
  • Eliminate the waiting room function in Zoom and allow students to join the meeting even if the faculty has not started it yet (if privacy is a concern, set a password for the meeting, and distribute it to students). This allows students to meet before class to hang out, talk, and create a classroom community without adding a significant amount of Zoom time. These pre-class discussions can replicate walking to class and chatting with peers, or discussions that happen in the classroom before or after class.
  • Create a platform for anonymous feedback partway through the semester and be open to making adjustments based on the feedback. Students at the panel expressed the need for faculty to be understanding and willing to change the course depending on students' needs.
  • Understand that students do not necessarily have the same capacity to focus on and prioritize schoolwork. Everyone is living in a different situation. Be empathetic of this as you consider your syllabus, course load, and expectations from students.

For the complete notes on each of the break out room discussions, including the captioned recording of this event, visit the RITG Events page.