Tips and tricks for Gonzaga students to succeed in the virtual classroom

Professors recommend completing materials before coming to class for a more focused, beneficial environment.

Walking down Bulldog Alley this fall is going to look a little bare as many students transition to remote learning. The personal connection, Gonzaga community, friends and memories will be made primarily over Zoom this semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

GU finalized the fall semester schedules for students, giving professors the option to run their classes online, hybrid or in person. With a majority of undergraduate classes online, the GU community is learning how to adjust to remote learning. 

For some, online learning is difficult, but GU professors are here to help with some tips and tricks on how to ace online classes and develop a connection with your professors and peers.

A common theme for succeeding in online classes is communication and regular participation. 

“Succeeding is not any different than in-person. As long as they are coming to class and engaging, they are going to be fine,” said Ute Perz, a German language professor. 

Professors are urging their students to ask questions and participate in class, just as if they were in face-to-face classrooms. 

“We aren’t getting as much participation from our classes because people are so afraid to unmute themselves and then ask questions,” said Dr. Kevin Measor, pre-health adviser, biology professor and affiliate instructor department of Biological Structures at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Measor suggested that students ask their professors on the first day of class what the best way to participate in their class is. That way students eliminate the fear of speaking out in their Zoom lectures. 

“Understand basic Zoom etiquette. Most importantly, work at connecting in many of the same ways you would in-person," Kenneth Anderson, dean of the School of Business, said in an email. "Be present, stay engaged, ask questions, participate.” 

By participating in class, you are also engaging. This means doing the homework, having your camera on for Zoom class and taking advantage of the opportunities professors and the university offer.

Utilizing resources that GU offers will help set students up for success. GU offers tutoring resources and for the language department, Perz suggests students use them. 

Along with utilizing tutoring, Anderson has some advice. 

“Do the homework and offline work prior to class so that our face-to-face time is more productive and interesting — you’ll be more engaged in the conversation if you’re prepared,” he said.

Along with participation in class, office hours are a huge part of making connections with professors. Taking advantage of the time professors set aside for their students is a great way to also ask questions. 

Office hours online look a lot like in-person office hours.

“You can do Zoom office hours, just like regular office hours," Perz said. "You are just available on Zoom, during that time. You have a set meeting and students can just pop in.” 

Anderson said to take advantage of not only office hours, but common events on campus. 

“It’s just trying to keep that personal connection, rather than doing everything over email,” Measor said. 

Community is a big part of the GU experience. Although it seems nearly impossible to create that connection and sense of community with classmates online, professors have tips for that too.

“Take advantage of breakout groups and small groups in classes as an opportunity to learn a bit more about a handful of people.  It can be an easier way to get to know a whole class by taking it a bite at a time,” Anderson said.

Break out rooms lead to bonds formed by students, where phone numbers are exchanged and the GU camaraderie is back.

Perz taught her first all Zoom class this summer, German 101, and she said the community among students was strong.

“I was pleasantly surprised how much of a classroom community we created,” Perz said.

Study groups via Zoom also help create that community with classmates but also allow you to study.

“I think this will also help students when they get back into the classroom,” Measor said.

Measor suggests that students look into using Microsoft Teams. This application is available to all GU students and gives tools like chat, video calls, games and allows for social meetings among students.

However, professors acknowledge that looking at a screen on Zoom all day is not the best for mental health, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Finding a balance between screen time and off-screen time is important.

“It can have a detrimental effect on your mental health because you are somewhat making a connection, but not like you were before,” Measor said. 

Finding ways to get off the screen is important for students to do, Measor said. This can mean different ways for each person, but walking, running or another exercise is necessary for online classroom success. 

Besides being present and engaged in regular communication in classes, feedback from students is welcomed to help students with virtual classroom success. 

“The No.1 thing students can do is give feedback and often,” Measor said. “[Professors] know in this environment we don’t always know the right answers. We are doing workshops and learning, but we don’t know if that’s going to work for our students unless our students tell us.”

Hannah Hislop is a news editor. Follow her on Twitter: @hannahvhislop.

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