To say that we’ve experienced a lot of change as students in the past few months would be an understatement.

We’ve watched the most unconventional graduation to date. We’ve social distanced and attended classes virtually.

For some of you, it may have caused some disappointment or even some uncertainty about your collegiate future.

You probably have a lot of questions— I do too.

  • How will my classes function?
  • How will I get to know my professors and classmates?
  • And how will this be different than the online classes I’ve taken in the past?

When I heard that some of my classes at Winona State would be hybrid or completely online, I couldn’t help but anticipate an entirely new college learning experience.

I’ve always had in-person classes during my two years at WSU, plus my share of labs, lecture-style classes, and seminars. In fact, I took my first online class this past semester – not the best circumstances to try out a new learning style. Yes, it was challenging and not something I signed up for but nonetheless I’m more prepared for this semester.

Here are 4 reasons why I am embracing this distinctive upcoming semester at WSU.

1. WSU Faculty are Developing New Ways to Teach Us

It is almost as if WSU is getting a complete transformation. Faculty and staff have all been working their hardest these last few months to plan and revise instructional techniques from last semester to make Fall 2020 so much better.

They have been working with WSU’s TLT department to more training to be well-prepared for distance and hybrid learning in a variety of ways.

Designing Online Classes Differently

Changing the design of the class can make a huge difference.

If you’re a front-row kind of student, you may appreciate your professor’s class zoom meetings where you can be walked through a problem in real time.

Or if you’re a do-it-on-your-own-time kind of student, you may appreciate the fact that your professor can self-publish a video using Kaltura Kapture to send out an assignments ahead of time so you can do it your own pace.

Making Documents Accessible

The goal is to use D2L Brightspace and other online programs to collect assignments in an easy and organized way.

You can even use your phone with the Microsoft Office Lens app to upload written work and that way, your professors can quickly return your test scores without weeks of agony.

Making Online Classes More Personal

As students, I think we can agree that we’d hate it if we were being lectured through Zoom for the entire semester. However, many WSU professors are trying to make it more engaging.

For example, Dr. Penny Warner is planning to have students in early childhood and elementary education classes use Microsoft Flipgrid to publish their own classroom song video clips and then share the content with each other.

Meeting Students Where They Are

Some professors are exploring ways to teach with the technology we are used to in our daily lives. Yes, that could mean making a TikTok for an assignment. For example, nursing students are asked to find medical TikToks and share what they learned with the class.

Professors are also being trained to be more culturally relevant so expect the unexpected!

So how does this affect us? How will these improvements change the semester we’ll have? In simple terms, we’ll get all the new changes and more considering you may have several classes with different formats.

2. We have More Choices for Class Delivery Methods

Students who prefer in-person learning have the option to search for a method that works the best for them. There are plenty of gen-ed and lower level courses that are offering face-to-face sections.

For other students, the online/hybrid format may offer more independence. This design allows students to work ahead as they want to a certain point all while keeping up with the professor’s assignments. For the in-person portion, your class time might be focused on applying what you’ve learned online to say—a group or final project.

 

3. We have so Many Resources & Support Services

If you need a little extra support—like we all do at some point— at almost any time, a professor can meet 1:1 with students via Zoom.

It’s understandable to feel confused in a research-intensive let alone it being online, yikes!

Lots of professors understand that the 1:1 help might be the difference between a passing or failing grade. Professors are prepared to help us through those tough times, with their full support.

Also, if you need help beyond that, there are plenty of resources.

If you find yourself at a loss for what to do with your classes, students have complete access to the Warrior Success Center for advising and tutoring help.

And if something happens to your computer or if there’s something funky with your software or your connection, Tech Support is ready to help.

Don’t worry, you’ve got this!

4. We have Unique Opportunities to be Creative

For me, toward the end of the spring semester I barely managed to complete the course without losing my mind. Honestly, I was a little tired of seeing everyone through a screen, but along the way, I became pretty savvy using the technology. Who would have known?

In a matter of months, I learned how to use the most basic functions of Zoom and now feel like an expert in some ways!

Although taking an online/hybrid class may not have the same appeal as sitting next to your friends during lecture, it may surprise you to know that students might have taken this opportunity a step further.

Just think of what could happen if we made the technology work for us. What if we learned how to be more creative with it? The possibilities would be endless.

This past spring semester, seniors from the Art and Design program completed their first ever virtual reality (VR) art exhibit where you can see each senior’s interactive VR art piece. The seniors got to showcase their art while getting the satisfaction that their months of hard work would pay off.

So, if technology was used to our advantage then what do you think you could do?

Fall 2020 Brings Good Changes to WSU

It seems like this upcoming fall semester WSU will still check all the boxes.

Students of 2020, this was a year of constant change. Some of you may have found yourselves in unique environments where your spring semester was cut short, you returned home earlier than you thought, you made new summer plans, and tried to wrap head around a fall semester amid a pandemic.

This was something nobody could have predicted.

We’ve had time to plan—not like last semester—and in response Winona State has put time and extra effort to make some changes.

Although nothing went according to plan, I’m here to tell you that you’re not going to want to miss this semester because I think it’s going to be worth it. We’ve had lots of things thrown our way but let’s embrace it!

 

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Kiva Grote-Hirsch

Kiva is a Communication Studies: Organizational Communications Major and a Mass Communications: Creative Digital Media and Global Studies Minor who will graduate in 2022. Kiva is from Madison, WI and enjoys writing, reading, photography, and playing soccer.

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