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Welcome back to Students Speak Up! I’m thrilled to have you back for our second installment of these themed posts.

If you missed the first post, my name is Julia Maring and I am a sophomore in college. Today I am excited to share with you some overall feedback that I received from my college friends from a variety of backgrounds on their experiences with remote learning. I sent out a survey asking for both positive feedback and constructive criticism on what could be improved in the current environment, and I believe that it will prove helpful for all of us to read and understand each other’s situations, regardless if you teach at the college level or not.

To start, let’s talk about a couple great resources that these college students recommended to me as proving extremely beneficial to their learning experiences:

#1: Panopto. One student listed this as a helpful resource that their professors use to record lectures that show their face while also showing the PowerPoint slides. Professors can also circle things on the slides and add timestamps that allow students to be able to easily re-watch certain segments.

#2: Playposit. Multiple students listed this as their favorite form of asynchronous lecture videos. This technology allows professors to make the video pause at certain intervals during the lecture to provide students with a chance to answer a question or two to track comprehension.

Blended learning at its core can be a bit of a challenge, especially for students who thrive on face-to-face connection and conversations. Let’s take a look at some feedback that students provided on what some of them would like to see changed.

#1: Zoom breakout rooms. While some students love these, it can be difficult when everyone in the room leaves their cameras off and refuses to speak. One way to remedy this could be to hop between breakout rooms as the host periodically to check on students.

#2: Asynchronous videos and synchronous videos when they are the same material. This one is pretty self-explanatory—it can be a bit frustrating for some students to watch a twenty minute video prior to class on the exact same material that is going to be discussed in class, unless of course the material is substantially difficult.

#3: The Zoom whiteboard feature. Several students commented that this feature makes following along a bit challenging due to difficulties in reading the handwriting that the professor writes with a mouse.

However, there are certainly some features and ideas that students love. Here they are:

#1: Use of GroupMe. Multiple students have commented that they love when their teacher recommends setting up a GroupMe (a free group messaging platform) for the class so that they can ask questions and build community in the groupchat.

#2: In-class discussions where speaking is mandatory. For some students it can be hard to find the courage to speak up, so being required to do it allows them to do it and feel engaged without having to make the decision themselves.

#3: Various group projects throughout the duration of the semester. It can be so refreshing to be placed into different group projects with different people all the time, which facilitates new connections even while remote.

#4: Fun weekly check-ins. An icebreaker for the class at the beginning of a Zoom meeting can be a great way to encourage students to talk and engage with each other in a refreshingly fun way.

Both teachers and students may be struggling during this time with mental health issues, screen fatigue, and lack of motivation to stay engaged, so it is crucial for us all to be compassionate towards each other and genuinely check in to understand how we are all doing (as well as understanding that not everyone learns the same way). As a student myself, it has definitely been difficult during this time for a variety of reasons, but I am so thankful for my professors who take the time to find creative ways to engage us and get us to connect with each other. I hope that this student insight proves helpful for you!

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