Online class to help with winter virtual learning

Emily Morris, Managing Editor

An online course about online learning will be offered to help students as virtual learning continues into at least the first two weeks of the winter semester. 

Although the state emergency order only extends to Wednesday, Dec. 9, Oakland University is continuing virtual learning into the winter semester, which begins on Wednesday, Jan. 6. 

According to Michelle Piskulich, interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, the first two weeks of classes will remain virtual until Thursday, Jan. 19, allowing a quarantine period after the holiday break in December. 

“This provides a little more time between holiday gatherings … We want to be sure that when students are back, we’re providing an environment for them that protects their health and safety,” Piskulich said. 

New online course for online learning 

This will be the third instance in less than a year in which Oakland University has moved the majority of learning online — March, November and, now, January. Students have reported struggling with switches to online classes, but Piskulich said there will be an online course offered in the winter to help students “engage” and “succeed.” 

“We are actually in the process — because we are hearing some students are struggling — to try to put together a short online course about how to succeed in online learning,” she said. 

The course is planned to be available on Moodle, similar to an anti-plagiarism course offered by some composition classes. Students could choose to review the course, and after successful completion they would receive a virtual certificate. 

“We want them to feel like they’re being supported, and part of our role here is connecting students to resources … There’s a vast number of resources,” Glenn McIntosh, senior vice president for student affairs and chief diversity officer, said. 

Current resources for online learning 

Although the course will be a new tool, Piskulich and McIntosh suggested a range of other tools too. 

Piskulich recommended using the Tutoring Center — which is offering virtual appointments — for help with course material. For technical assistance, she recommends the Help Desk. Both centers have office hours on Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

The Graham Counseling Center is another tool that may help students, according to McIntosh. The center offers free counseling sessions to OU students, and it also has office hours on Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., except from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

“We’re all facing a common element of fear and anxiety about the unknown,” McIntosh said. “The first thing I address is understanding their feelings and emotions, and then I try to connect them to different campus resources.”

Finding the right resource  

Faculty and staff can help guide students to the right resource because Piskulich suggested “communicating” is the first step. Many professors are also shifting to an online format for the first time so working together can help everyone adjust.

“There’s a lot of work behind an asynchronous course… How are you communicating early on? We’ve doubled down on asking students and faculty to — even in an [online] asynchronous class — see them,” she said. 

According to Piskulich, professors and students seeing each other for at least an hour per week can minimize “isolation” and promote “communication.” According to the George Lucas Education Foundation, students are more likely to struggle without communication and hinder online learning. 

Mindful communication can help students find the right resource — courses about online learning, academic and tech support or free counseling — to succeed in online learning. 

“[We] try to help navigate some of the aspects that feel isolating about the online environment… and how we communicate really, really intentionally [is a] takeaway.” Piskulich said.