Georgian Court and the Global Pandemic

by Taylor O’Keefe (Digital Communication, 2021)

What an unbelievable year 2020 was. Millions around the world adapted to a “new normal” because of COVID-19. So, what is the “new normal” for Georgian Court? Due to the new safety precautions, Georgian Court has had to implement virtual learning. Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, and other virtual meeting sites have become the new classroom. Professors have had to adjust to new teaching methods while students have had to adapt to new learning styles.

The National Survey of Student Engagement, a company that surveys different colleges throughout the United States, surveyed 401 GCU students. GCU students shared how they felt during the unprecedented fall semester.

When asked “During the current school year, to what extent have your courses challenged you to do your best work?” a total of 56% students said they felt that the course work challenged them very much.

However, when asked about interaction between students and the faculty, 71% said they had good quality interactions with their faculty compared to the 51% with their fellow students. GCU students had also felt a high sense of belonging, with 94% feeling they felt comfortable to be themselves here at GCU while 85% said they felt valued.

Finally, considering the pandemic, 83% of students felt that GCU had made every effort to keep the school safe and healthy. Compared to other schools surveyed, GCU performed well on the survey and had a successful fall semester, despite the challenging conditions students and faculty had to adapt to.

While interviewing Provost Janice Warner, I asked her about the school’s plan for the upcoming semester and how the school hopes to make this a positive experience for both the students and the staff. First, when asked, “What steps has GCU taken to make virtual learning a positive experience,” Provost Warner answered that “the university invested in upgraded laptops for faculty and improved Wi-Fi for outdoor spaces around campus. Donations were collected for the Angel Fund to help students acquire technology if they didn’t have access to what they needed.”

Additionally, in responding to the impact of virtual environment on student learning, Provost Warner goes on to mention that “professors have had to really reflect on how they teach. Many have taken steps to use technology that they plan to use even when they come back to the classroom. Overall, we’ve found that students have been participating in events more than when they are in person. There is some convenience to just being able to connect online from anywhere. That being said, I believe we are all eager to connect with others which is also driving engagement levels.”

As far as the downsides of virtual learning, Provost Warner mentions “it is a lot harder to gauge how students are doing when we’re online unless we also meet with them individually. I’m teaching a class myself and find it hard to speak to a screen during the whole class time.”

I was also given the opportunity to interview a GCU student. In my conversation with Christina Grasso, a junior graphic design major, mentioned that she felt “that one of the hardest parts of adapting to the new learning environment was the increase in individual responsibilities. It’s become more up to us as students to be on top of due dates and assignments.”

Grasso went on to explain how she believes learning virtually can promote laziness and lack of focus, which she believes is an issue for professors. Finally, Grasso stated that she prefers face-to-face learning, as an in-person environment allows for more interactive discussions that helps enhance the overall learning experience.

In the context of this unprecedented global pandemic, it is great to see the ways in which Georgian Court is doing their part in keeping students, faculty, and staff both safe and motivated.