As everything about our lives has halted for the time being, the struggle now comes in finding time and motivation for our work.

Fractured Lessons: How UTC Students and Professors Manage Online Learning

Chattanooga, Tenn Mocsnews.com (AP) – The past month has served as a catalyst for change for many. COVID-19 cases all across the globe have risen to a level that we cannot ignore, and efforts to curb the virus have disrupted the lives of many. 

Many employees find themselves working from home or temporarily out of a job, but some of the biggest impacts has been on students. Schools were the first to be impacted as they served as a hub where hundreds or thousands of people could come into contact with each other. In the first days as schools across the nation were shut down, students and professors were left in uncertainty, either about their classes or their job.

Tips from The Huffington Post about staying productive from home

For most, the biggest struggle is in managing their online classes. Stay at home orders have given everyone plenty of free time, but dedicating that time to classwork and studies is much easier said than done. UTC Senior Communications Major Rachel Surles shares her experience “My biggest challenge was not having a routine. I’m the type of person that thrives on a routine but since there were no in-person classes and most of my classes weren’t doing zoom classes either, my schedule is non-existent. Nothing really made that easier. I’m still trying to figure it out.” 

When asked what she does to create a working environment from home Rachel emphasized the importance of planning. She said she makes lists every week of what to study, what assignments are due, and when they need to be completed by. As she finishes her work she crosses off the assignments to make sure nothing gets past her. 

For other students however, it’s a matter limiting screen time. Natalie Chandler, a sophomore majoring in HHP-SORT, said what works for her is getting an early start and taking breaks when needed. She also noted the importance of turning off her phone and focusing solely on her classwork whenever she has assignments due.

While this has been stressful for everyone, one perspective that is often overlooked is that of the educator. Times like these are undoubtedly hard to handle as a student, but professors can have much more weighing on their shoulders aside from classes. Angelique Gibson, a professor in Communications says “We can be scared sometimes too. I know I can be. I had scarring in my lungs and asthma which makes me afraid to go to the grocery store. I am not a tenure track professor. I am here year to year; teaching classes that are nearly impossible to teach online. That makes me worry about how likely it might be that I find myself on the cutting room floor. If that happened, my husband and I would be out of health insurance during a pandemic. Not a happy thought.”

On top of the stressors that come from protecting and providing for their family, they must also contend with the challenges of working from home. For Professor Gibson, staying focused means staying off of social media. “Avoid Facebook. Seriously, I think social media may eat way too much of my time. I know it’s hard to not be connected, because it’s our only way to be outside right now, but not always being attached has been the only way to keep my mind on the material.”

While social media may be our only connection to others, it can easily become an obstacle in the way of our productivity.

Her tips to students during these final weeks of school are to stay professional no matter the setting. She emphasized keeping good etiquette on Zoom calls, good lighting, an acceptable background, and be careful of what you say. Just because you aren’t in person doesn’t mean there are no consequences for what you say or do. It is important to remember that your actions still have weight.

With only a few weeks left in the semester, it can be tempting to put on coast through these final assignments, but now is not the time to slow down. Find ways to focus on classes and build the environment you need. Whether it’s making a schedule or turning off your phone, or finding a quiet spot to study, do what you have to do to find your focus. 

About Mark Drinkard

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