The obstacles and upsides of the digital transition

By Connor Renshaw

A sign posted on a student’s door indicating when they are in class. Photo Courtesy of Malcolm Halliday.

Over the spring break, it was announced over email that classes at Ripon College would move online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with students having completed three weeks of online classes, students have begun expressing concerns regarding their ability to keep up with classes while at home. At the same time, students have expressed appreciation for the work put into preparing online classes by their professors.

The transition to online learning means moving from the structured and scheduled environment of the Ripon College campus to a home environment that for some students presents a challenge.

“It’s easier to get distracted in your home than in a class,” said Courtney Hall, a senior majoring in psychology and theatre.“There’s also more accountability with showing you’ve done your work whether that’s an extra paper or quiz that shows you’ve watched lectures and paid attention.”

Another student agreed.

“I’m concerned about not being able to perform as well as I would in class. It’s harder to hold myself accountable,” said Sonja Bruggeman, a sophomore majoring in psychology and anthropology.

Students have also expressed concerns regarding the workload associated with online classes.

Maythe Salcedo, a first-year who plans to self design her major, said “some professors think that because we are home we have more free time on our hands and we can do more work. Well, that is not the case. Some students are essential workers, others have to take care of younger siblings. There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being at home. I do believe that some professors are understanding, but there are others who did not change their syllabus at all and still expect us to meet three times a week for almost two hours.”

According to Interim Vice President and Dean of Faculty Rebecca Matzke faculty have been instructed to take into account how students’ home situations may affect their ability to work.

“I asked all faculty to check in with their students via survey or other means to see if adjustments to assignments or extra help were needed. There were concerns from some students that some courses now involved more work than during face-to-face classes, and, again, faculty have been adjusting,” she said.

To simplify the technological aspect of online classes, Matzke said that faculty were asked to use either the myripon.edu portal or Google Classroom for assignments. Faculty were told only to use Zoom for video conferencing, and that these calls “had to happen during the original class time so that courses didn’t conflict with each other.”

Despite some of the issues with online classes students have expressed appreciation for the work put in by their professors in order to prepare their courses.

“Given the short amount of time professors had to completely digitize their material, I think they all did incredible. I think as students we sometimes forget how much time was put into the work we are given,” Hall said.

Bruggeman described being thankful for professors’ concern for their students. She said “I’m happy we have professors that are super caring and supportive. [Otherwise] I don’t feel online classes would work.”

Hall expressed curiosity as to whether or not the school might be able to offer online classes in the future. She said that online courses “could be a way to make up credits or gain extra if needed for a major or earlier graduation.”

“We are definitely looking at all kinds of options for online classes going forward,” Matzke said, “I think it’s safe to say that COVID-19 has made every college and university in the country consider the need to maintain online options in the future.”