Feeling Overwhelmed

Trying to make the transition from in-person work to online work is not as easy as you might think

Alana Luman, Editor-in-Chief

Assistant Principal, Jessica Gregory, brought a very interesting article to the attention of our journalism class. An article entitled, The Workload Dilemma, was authored by Ms. Betsy Barre, who is the Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Wake Forest University. Inside the article, Ms. Barre wanted to examine one of the most basic of student skills; time management. Using time management as her hypothesis, Ms. Barre then wanted to see how the students at Wake Forest University were handling the new demands of online instruction. Were the students spending the same amount of time online, as they would have with an in-person class? Were the faculty members translating their in-person courses properly into the online world? Were the course expectations the same for the faculty and the students? As Barre dove head first into finding an answer, she noticed that she was actually having a hard time estimating the amount of time that she needed to have to complete tasks. To try and balance the in-person vs. online equation, Barre and her colleagues actually built a course workload estimator, whereby professors had a new tool in be able to gauge the amount of work that was being handed out. There was a tremendous amount of student stress on the Wake Forest campus and Barre devised six separate hypotheses’ to try and locate the proper solutions. Here are the six hypotheses’ that Barre examined in Spring semester 2020:

Hypothesis 1: Whether intended or not, is more work being assigned than in the past? It is very hard to judge the necessary time a project needs when teaching an in-person class, and now professors are trying to adjust to the online format and the transition results in more work being added.

Hypothesis 2: We’re not assigning more work it’s just that with the switch to online learning we are doing a poorer job of explaining our expectations. For example, doing a pair/share in class could productively take five minutes, but an online discussion board could see that same activity take 15 to 20 minutes.

Hypothesis 3: Is it possible that our students are over estimating their work because they are unhappy to be learning online? If professors are struggling to predict proper work timelines for online work, doesn’t it reason that students are most likely having the same issues?

Hypothesis 4: Many students could excel in an in-person class with less effort. There is always the concept of what work is expected of a student in an in-person course, but that doesn’t mean that he/she has to do it. There is a greater accountability for all of the expected work to be completed with an online course.

Hypothesis 5: The shift to online coursework has increased students’ cognitive load. Students are experts in how to teach themselves with in-person instruction, but now students have had to re-teach themselves how to learn online.

Hypothesis 6: A global pandemic has decreased student capacity to work. Finally, we all need to recognize that the academics that we were trying to teach are happening right in the middle of a pandemic.

Our very own Trojan students are trying to work through issues (isolation, loneliness, bad Wi-Fi) and this can make the context of the work feel harder. At the same time, dealing with COVID can decrease motivation and the capacity to work.The following statements are comments that I collected from our current senior class when asking about their overall impressions of online school. If this is how our seniors were feeling, especially with their increased level of maturity, imagine how our underclassmen are feeling. Here is a sampling of what I collected:

“We are already expected to be on screen for seven hours per day, so I don’t think that we should be expected to spend more than an hour on screen for homework.”

“I feel like my whole life is being consumed by a computer screen.”

“Because of the pandemic, I find myself working on my laptop seven days a week and spending way too much time to complete individual assignments.”

“For some strange reason the workload just feels different to me.”

“My interpretation of online school is that my teachers feel that since I am at home, I now have more concentrated time to complete more work.”

“I truly wonder how much communication takes place between my teachers? Do they even know how much work one class is assigning compared to another class?”

“ I feel overwhelmed because I feel that every single piece of work assigned online must be completed and turned in.”

“I do find it hard to build a relationship with a teacher through a computer screen. This is my biggest complaint about online instruction.”

“Personally, I am fighting to stay motivated because with online instruction every day feels exactly the same.”

Ms. Barre’s article truly opened our eyes here at The Lincolnian. As we prepare to celebrate the one-year anniversary of leaving campus (March 13, 2020), there is no doubt that the Trojan student body is feeling exhausted by the length of time that we have had to use distance learning. The potential for hybrid learning to officially open in the next few weeks (COVID numbers inside San Joaquin County are dropping) will be a welcome relief. I can’t believe that I am saying this, but I can’t wait to get back inside all of my classrooms!