When Kenyon announced all coursework would be conducted online for the remainder of the semester, my roommate saw me have my first mental breakdown of 2020. Like the majority of students, I was hopeful that I would once again reunite with my classmates for my 8:10 a.m. class in the Science Quad. However, after the announcement, everything came to a halt and suddenly I found myself struggling to stay afloat.
What followed then was a flood of emails about remote instruction and other pressing logistical concerns. Kenyon’s response to this pandemic has been thoughtful and prompt; however, in terms of remote instruction, Kenyon needs to also focus on how its students are learning and encourage its faculty to be kind and considerate as they teach and grade.
Learning in any circumstance is a two-way street, and a transition to remote instruction has to factor in not only the delivery of academic content to students, but also how well that content is being assimilated and understood. Students have gone home to vastly different situations which in many cases are not as conducive to learning. Moreso, the psychosocial impact resulting from the spread of the virus cannot be underestimated: Students, especially those who struggle with mental health challenges, will have to find novel ways to cope.
To assume that every student can learn during this pandemic without additional support is misleading. On that note, it is necessary for conversations about remote learning to give attention to the emotions and unique situations that students have found themselves in. Faculty should also attempt to understand and anticipate how these changes could impact students’ learning. It is important for faculty to know that success this semester will vary widely amongst students and they should be ready to help each student to achieve their definition of success.
I have found it particularly helpful when my professors have attempted to personalize my learning experience. Since the pandemic began, many of them have reached out to me to check in and ask how best I could be supported. This shows that they are aware of the different learning styles of their students and will attempt to cater to them. To promote learning, faculty should make an effort to personally connect with their students and meet these students halfway. Posting slides on Moodle without following up via email or regular Google Meets might not be enough. For example, adding a flowchart that summarizes the lecture might be helpful for visual learners. As much as possible, faculty should let their students know that they care about them as individuals and about their learning, not just their grades.
I would further suggest that emphasis should be placed on learning the content rather than testing. Many students are striving to just get through the semester and continuous testing will not get them through it. This is not the time to increase coursework and raise expectations. Instead, it would be helpful to introduce experiential learning methods into the existing teaching models. An example of this would be a Modern Languages and Literatures professor who recommends television shows in the course’s language which could aid in learning. Another engaging teaching technique is to have role-playing in the classrooms; this can allow students to assume the roles of teachers so that faculty can learn from them and see how they might want to be taught.
These tips are not exhaustive and are not designed to be an end-all be-all; the purpose is to challenge Kenyon to be deliberate about the process of learning for students. Lastly, but most importantly, the key is to be kind and humane. No one signed up for this and no one knows how long it will last. The least anyone can do is to be mindful of the roles and spaces they occupy and the power they hold.
Ubongabasi Asuquo ’23 is an undeclared major from Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.