It's a Virtual World

And the world came together as the people stayed apart

In recent days, Divine Word College faculty and some staff members have started working from home to reduce the number of people coming and going on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these circumstances keep us apart physically, it’s important to stay connected and remember that we are still a part of the DWC community! 

So let’s check in and find out what’s it like working from home and learning entirely online?

Megan Sutton

Megan Sutton, Counselor

I continue to provide support and aid students in managing the stress and anxiety they are experiencing.  Although recently, I have noted that there has been an increase in grief responses among students.  There is a sense of loss of control, changes in social connections and ways of seeking support, as well as students beginning to have personal experience with others dealing with the virus.   So as the current situation continues, the emotional focus is evolving from one of anxiety and fear to one of a sense of helplessness. 

Megan started working from home recently as a result of the governor's new order, which requires her to provide services from home. She provided the following comment:

Counseling by telephone and email present challenges as counseling involves more than just listening.  It is difficult to pick up on nuances such tone of voice, facial expression and body language.  All of these are important during counseling as they aid the counselor in understanding the person as a whole.  A positive within this is that I have noted the importance of being present within a counseling session for awareness of those nuances.  

Fr. Bang Tran, SVD, Dean of Students

Considering what’s going on around us, I am very thankful to our loving God for keeping all of us safe and healthy. I am grateful to the kitchen staff for their dedication and sacrifices to put bread, rice and potatoes on our tables every day. My gratitude also goes to our SVD confreres and presiders who remind us each day of the love of God and to put our hope in the Risen Christ. Last but certainly not least, I really appreciate what our students and staff do every day to keep our home clean and sanitized.

During the first week of online learning, there were frustrations about Zoom, confusion about computer cameras and certainly some irritations with the new processes, especially for the students who recently arrived at the college. However, now things seem to be running smoothly. I am waiting to see the results of a survey we sent out to students last week concerning distance learning. Hopefully, we will learn something more about online learning so we can improve it.

We are in Octave of Easter so Happy Easter and have a blessed Easter Season. Alleluia.

Fr. Ken Anich, SVD

Fr. Ken Anich, SVD, professor of counseling and psychology

My experience with teaching online has been a learning curve. It is something I’ve never experienced before and I had basically one weekend to adjust my class and figure out how to work with Zoom. I think I earned some days in purgatory in that process! I’m still learning the ins and outs of online teaching. My students seem to be doing much better at it than I am. Still I miss the interaction in a classroom having the students right in front of me where I can experience their reactions and more easily receive their responses. 

Dr. Benjamin Winter

Dr. Benjamin Winter, assistant professor of theology

This crisis has taught me a great deal about finding peace in everyday moments. Although social distancing can be difficult, inconvenient, and (by definition) isolating, it can also encourage us to slow down -- to become more intentional, more trusting, and more considerate. While no one in my immediate family has been affected, we've all borne the weight of hearing horrific news daily.

This is a severe trial for the human family. But it is also an invitation: we must shift our economic and social priorities away from a model that views human persons as producers and consumers. To do so involves a radical change in our understanding of physical, mental, and spiritual health. As Church, we can contribute by sharing our robust tradition of spiritual practices and exercises. These lead to Christ, Whom the world desperately needs to encounter.

Kimberly Burnett-Hackbarth

Kimberly Burnett-Hackbarth, Registrar

Performing the registrar's work from home is much like working at DWC, except all of the wonderful people are online instead of in front of me. I miss the daily interactions with faculty, staff, and students and look forward to the day when we can all be together again.  I have been Zooming for meetings online, and talking over the telephone, and email, but the physical interaction is what I truly miss.

Ask me again next week...I am doing all of my registration via Zoom!  It should be a fun challenge for everyone.

Cederick Morando

Cederick Morando

Online classes are running smoothly. We used to have a problem with the “echoing of voices,” which made it hard to hear the teacher, as well as connections being disrupted from time to time, but those bugs have been fixed.

Getting access to Zoom was easy, although I’ve heard that some of the other students have had trouble connecting to the meetings.

Overall, I’m adjusting to the online courses just fine. I like how it frees up more time for us to do our homework, I also like the interactive features included in the application such as “share screen” and “virtual backgrounds.” There are really no challenges right now, except probably the feeling that we’re doing more work than before, but other than that everything is good ?.

Sr. Thanh Nguyen, LHC

Sr. Thanh Nguyen, LHC

Everything is going well with the distance classes. For me, it’s not quite so different from the actual classroom. The convenience is that we can access it anywhere on campus. From my observation, everyone has their own laptops but some students use the computers labs.

It took the instructors about two days to figure out how to share PowerPoint on the screen but they learned and we learned, too. It’s very convenient as we practice social distancing. I thank God for the Internet and the scientists who made it so comfortable and convenient for us to continue our program.

I had an interview for graduate school this week through Zoom and since I’ve been using it for the past two weeks, I was used to it. The interviewer said there would be a lot of courses online in the future when I move on to the next stage, so it will be easier for me since I’m already used to it.

Dr. Ron Condon

Dr. Ron Condon, Chair of the Dept. of Theology & Philosophy

All Divine Word College instructors had some adjusting to do in order to start teaching from home but Dr. Ron Condon faced a more substantial learning curve than most. He didn’t even have a computer.

Ron admits that he’s not the most tech-savvy person but he was willing to step into uncharted territory with a little guidance from the college community. Dr. Evelyn Dias recommended several laptop options and Ron was able to purchase one with tech support at a local electronics store. Next, he connected to his home’s Wi-Fi, which was previously unused.

“It’s all new for me,” he said.

For the first few days, Ron wasn’t able to get Zoom to cooperate on his new device so the self-proclaimed “two-finger typist” went to work entering short lectures into Populi for his students. To his surprise, they were very grateful and seemed to enjoy having access to his classes in this new way.

In time, Ron was able to launch Zoom and reunite digitally with his students for class. There were some early scheduling issues with the video chat program but with a little help from Elizabeth Winter, Assistant Librarian & Records Management Coordinator, he was able to start meeting regularly with students for class again!

“I am a complete novice at this but at least I was able to meet the classes and have good discussions. I even lectured as I often do in ethics and was able to keep my mind on philosophy and not worry too much about the technology because that is what I was fearful would happen,” he said.

After hearing how useful his students found the written lectures, Ron decided to continue providing them on Populi as an additional resource.

“We’re studying the ethics of Kant, who is one of the hardest of all the philosophers because he is so abstract so they need what help they can get,” he said.

During these difficult times, Ron said he’s been pleased to see students helping one another with technology challenges as they arise and even offering suggestions to him from time to time.

“My sense of the students is that they’re doing well. They’re young, they’re resilient and they are persons of strong faith,” he said.

Dr. Evelyn Dias

Dr. Evelyn Dias, Assistant Professor of Music

I just finished teaching two piano lessons this afternoon. Although it is far from perfect, I enjoy seeing my students during our video conferences. 

I am adjusting well to the change since I like using technology in my teaching. It gives me a chance to be creative even though it demands that I be much more precise and deliberate in my instruction. I was lucky enough to take a fantastic online class from the Eastman school of music a few years ago and it certainly inspires me when I create online content for my students.

Last Wednesday I created content on Populi for one of my classes and let them know I would be available in a Zoom meeting if anyone had questions. I didn't expect many to show up but to my surprise almost the whole class was there! We spent the hour together laughing, talking about this and that and sorting out a few class related queries. It was a reminder of how much we miss being together in person! I certainly won't take that for granted in the future. 

Tuan Hoang Nguyen, Student

Overall, learning in an online setting is equally as effective as learning in a classroom. Studying from a distance is more flexible and there are fewer distractions compared to normal learning. With Zoom, we also have social interaction and discussions. One of the benefits of studying online is when teachers send us video lectures, we can pause and repeat if we don’t understand. My experience is that I should not listen to the lecture while lying down on my bed because I will fall asleep very easily. However, according to what I have learned from psychology class, our brain and body are still working while we sleep. Let's see if it works. ?

When studying online, we don’t have immediate feedback from teachers. It can be frustrating and confusing to students who aren't 't comfortable learning in an online setting and are used to having their instructor provide immediate feedback.

Also, I learned to study more independently. I have to manage my time well to ensure that I get my work done. I have to check Populi several times a day and ask my classmates to check the assignments and announcements from teachers and make sure I don't miss anything. Of course, I spend more time sitting in a chair and working on the computer. I am getting fat and I need to discipline myself to exercise regularly. ?

Michelle Vargo

Michelle Vargo, ESL Instructor

Who would’ve thought that a few short weeks ago we were enjoying our spring break? I was in Michigan with my family blissfully enjoying my time off. As a chronic early planner, I had everything prepared for our Term D. Then poof, the coronavirus reared its ugly head. Everything changed overnight.

When the faculty was offered the opportunity to teach online classes, I jumped on it because I wasn’t sure I would be able to get out of Michigan. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. All of my fabulous plans were now in shambles. Suddenly everything became an emergency. Can I actually get home safely? How was I going to deliver lessons? How would I update my syllabi? Oh my gosh, can I use the new teaching platforms? Loom, Zoom… the list was endless. I found myself becoming the student while at the same time trying to pull it all together to teach. I have to say, I have had enough crash courses in teaching platforms to last a life time.

Having made it back to Dubuque, thankfully, and beginning to teach my classes, it still feels like everything is an emergency. As I am teaching lower level and midlevel ESL classes, the first day of class was trying at best. How does one get students registered for online activities when communication is limited at best under normal circumstances? What should I do when my internet connection is slow? How do I create dynamic lessons when I’m still trying to figure out Loom and Zoom? In short, I have decided to let it go and remember that my students want to learn and I want to teach. We gently laugh with each other when things don’t go well, we share great belly laughs when things seem normal, and we thank God that each of us has the opportunity to learn and grow together at this very difficult time.

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