SIUE & Lewis and Clark Community College Embrace Remote Learning Lessons

Article by: David Blanchette, the Telegraph, (618)463-2500

EDWARDSVILLE — This was to be Commencement Weekend at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, but you’d never know it by looking at the campus.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced colleges and universities worldwide to revise how they deliver instruction and diplomas, including SIUE and Lewis and Clark Community College. It’s an era of Zoom classrooms and Google Hangout lectures. And rather than sitting in a crowded venue with thousands of fellow students adorned in caps and gowns, SIUE graduates and their proud families had to be satisfied Saturday with a virtual commencement ceremony.

An in-person graduation ceremony for the SIUE class of 2020 is scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 7-8 at the SIUE campus. But the members of this year’s graduating class will be remembered as the ones who completed their degrees remotely.

At Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, speech professor Elizabeth Grant praised her school’s transition to online learning.

“I feel that we are the embodiment of true trailblazers,” she said. “We were thrust into a remote learning environment and we quickly got training in-house, and are doing the best we can in this uncharted territory.

“Students have joined us on this new adventure, which will forever change us,” she said. “We will never take our in-person interactions for granted again.”

Due to the nature of her subject, public speaking and interpersonal communication, Grant feels students have a need for live audiences to hear their speeches — something that’s hard to do during these times. There also are other drawbacks to a remote education.

“Class time used to be reserved in their schedules, and now many students have picked up extra work shifts because they are deliverers or grocery store workers,” Grant said. “They are no longer necessarily available during our scheduled time. Some are sharing computers with family members.

“I have found that WiFi is unreliable for many in outlying areas,” she said. “We have poor connections with a lot of our virtual meeting formats.

“I much prefer in-person learning,” Grant said. “I feel that remote learning works, but lacks the dynamism that drew me to teaching.”

Lewis and Clark student Betsy Papin said remote learning has forced her to become more focused.

“It requires a significant amount of personal motivation,” she said. “There is not someone there to push you and make sure you are getting it done, and it’s a great deal of responsibility that I didn’t think about at first.”

“I have noticed the amount of work and time these professors have made,” she said. “My professors are great at keeping up with Blackboard and using technology to our advantage, so it’s been a pretty smooth transition.

“This is new for all of us, students and teachers, and we are all doing what we can to help each other out and get through the semester successfully,” she said.

Papin realizes why her college education is being done from afar but, having experienced both ways of doing things; she prefers in-class learning.

“My professors are great and I am definitely a better student in class where I can ask questions and be attentive to the lecture,” Papin said. “I also miss having other students to work with and figure out things together.”

Lewis and Clark has moved it's 49th Annual Commencement ceremony to Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, to accommodate the schedules of students who by that time will have moved on to other educational opportunities.

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