Remote Learning Term Officially Over & Thank God, Phewww

School, unbelievably, has already reached the mid-point of the 2020-2021 academic year. K-12 students and teachers have reached the winter break, and colleges and universities have ended the Fall term. This is not a complaint but more of a reflection. This semester has been really, really challenging for faculty and students alike, mainly due to remote learning.

Trust the Process?

As an educator, students were disengaged, unfocused, uncommunicative, and not technologically prepared. As far as teaching, we were all delivering curriculum through a remote medium new to most of us, Blackboard.

Most of the students and faculty never used Blackboard for remote leaning and we had to train ourselves at the very last minute. Many had to design or transfer courses from scratch into the platform, which is very difficult and a skillset similar to a computer programmer, not an educator.

Many of us, myself included, chose to teach a “course shell” already designed in Blackboard and used in our Virtual College. The “course shell,” albeit a more-than-adequate class for the material taught; in fact, at Miami Dade College our “course shells” are fit for the Honor’s College and could compete with any school in the country.

But the problem was in the delivery of the curriculum. It wasn’t ours. We didn’t choose the assignments, readings, videos, quizzes, or prompts. We weren’t experts at what we were teaching. In fact, I basically gained access to the material a day before school started.

It was stressful, basically a first-year teacher all over again, disregarding over 14 years’ experience at creating and mastering my own unique materials.

Stressful term in a ghost town of a campus

The Matrix and its Sequels

And of course, glitches popped up inside The Matrix, in the beginning, and throughout the term, especially at the end with grading.

Tech support often did not have a solution.

In addition, some people decided to teach on campus, in a blended format. The college spent money to make the campus safe and disinfected, yet the whole year was an absolute ghost town. Many classes only 1 or 2 students showed up and about 95% of the Faculty chose to teach remote.

Classrooms designed & set-up for social distance education were empty

The Bright Side of Remote Learning

Despite all of that, every time I ventured to the surreal ghost town of campus, frozen in time, March 2019, I had a positive interaction with a student, administrator, colleague, or someone in law enforcement or janitorial services. It was an adventure, or in the least, an experience.

Meeting legends like 84 year old master educator John Todd aka Odin

The good news is next term should be easier for everyone:

  1. We now have experience remote learning.
  2. We learned how to make the remote process easier and more personal with shortcuts and healthier, productive habits.

For example, I can now offer students a virtual tour of my office, on Day 1, so they’ll get my vibe right from the start and hopefully relax.

The worst of the pandemic may be happening right now, but at least for teachers and students, as of today, Dec.18th, the worst is officially behind us. 100%.

And by Fall of 2021, things should be back to normal, maybe even slightly better since so many of us are now armed with a new skill set.

But thank goodness this term is over. Like those in the medical field, who definitely have it worse and are fatigued, those in education have also been forgotten and it’s been extra hard on us as well.

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J.J. Colagrande

Has written about Miami culture for almost twenty years, first with The Miami Herald, then Miami New Times and Huffington Post. He's the publisher of The Jitney and a full-time professor.