Remote instruction poses new challenges for students’ learning environments 

By Sophie Kidd 

Students and professors alike were adjusting to their new daily routines as they entered their second week of remote learning.  

Paul Hanstedt, director of Washington and Lee University’s Center for Academic Resources and Pedagogical Excellence, has been working closely with faculty to help with their transition to virtual classes.  

Hanstedt said professors have adjusted quickly and haven’t encountered any major problems so far.  

“I haven’t heard a single person complain for more than three minutes. And when a complaint does come into play, it’s basically mourning the fact they can’t be in the classroom with their students anymore,” he said.  

At 12:45 AM in Bangladesh, Zahin Reaz attends his Washington and Lee Univ. Zoom class that meets at 2:45 PM EST. Photo Credits: Sophie Kidd

Many professors have turned to resources like Zoom, a videoconferencing program, to interact with students on a real-time basis, while others have opted to use Canvas, an interactive learning platform, for asynchronous teaching.  

“The first week of learning technology was overwhelming, but I was also just really sad because I like teaching small, in-person classes,” said English Professor Lesley Wheeler. “I keep committing minor technological screw-ups, but that’s small potatoes— that aspect of remote teaching is less stressful than I expected.”  

Wheeler said she’s been using a combination of discussion boards, essays and occasional Zoom meetings to teach her classes and to reduce stress for her students. 

Professor Lucas Morel, who is head of the Politics Department, said remote teaching has been a big adjustment for him and his family. Morel and his wife are now faced with the task of teaching their firstgrade daughter and helping her with schoolwork.  

“To see this as the new normal for us all for the next couple months, and not as interruptions to my usual day required a mental shift,” he said. “I had the leisure of two weeks to prepare myself and my students for what classes would look like while being a part-time schoolmarm to my daughter almost immediately.” 

Remote classes have also brought radical changes to students’ learning environments.  

Zahin Reaz, a sophomore finance major, returned to his home in Bangladesh shortly after in-person classes were suspended by the university.  

“All of my classes use Zoom, so I never adjusted to the time change when I came home. My sleep schedule is the same as when I was in America,” he said.  

Returning home has also been difficult for students like Alexa Donsbach who have attended boarding schools. She said this is the longest she’s been home since she was 12. Now, she and her family are learning how to live with each other for the first time in years.  

“My sister and I both went to boarding school, and our house physically doesn’t have the room for all of our stuff. Also, my mom is a teacher, so all three of us are normally on Zoom at once, which is hard because I can hear their conversations,” said Donsbach, a sophomore English major. 

Lindsay White, a freshman at Washington and Lee, and her twin brother Leo, a freshman at VMI, are both adjusting to their new lives at home.

Students at every school are making drastic changes to their routines. Lindsay White and her twin brother Leo find themselves having a much more similar college experience than before.  

 Lindsay White attends Washington and Lee while Leo is a cadet at Virginia Military Institute.  

“I have a similar schedule in regard to doing work and going to my class meetings, but it’s really different now because my routine is all at my house,” she said.  

She said she misses her daily routine, moving from building to building on campus, more than ever as she finds herself limited to the walk from her bed to her desk. 

Her brother’s routine has also been transformed since he arrived back home. 

“The class work is about the same, but the military aspect isn’t really part of my routine since being home,” he said. I don’t have to march in parades every Friday, wake up at 6 for morning formation, go to physical training twice a week, or wear uniforms.  

Wheeler is still optimistic about the rest of the school year, despite the reliance on remote learning.  

“There have definitely been bright spots,” she said. “My students are just as thoughtful and creative as ever, and sometimes crisis opens the door to franker conversations about our lives and the role of literature within them.”