For Brett Iarrobino ’21, remote classes have taken many forms. But the theatre arts and English double-major considers it fitting that a school as adaptable and diverse in its classroom approaches as Clark University would find fresh and compelling avenues for learning.
Iarrobino is among the many Clarkies who transitioned to online learning after the COVID-19 pandemic closed campus in mid-March. Now in his second week online, Iarrobino says his virtual classes have ranged from an intimate English seminar that carries on as usual over Zoom to a screen studies class that has shifted to asynchronous lectures that can be watched at the students’ convenience.
“Huge shout-out to Soren Sorensen, who, as a professional filmmaker, seems to be thriving in this teaching format,” Iarrobino says of his screen studies professor. “He’s opted for pre-recorded lectures that have been filled with some entertaining and unexpected editing — he’s certainly taking this challenge in stride and elevating online courses to a new level.”
From what he’s experienced over the past week, Iarrobino doesn’t think the shift to remote learning has stifled Clarkies’ creativity one bit. During a live Zoom session for his joint theatre and photography class last week, Iarrobino watched two students read a short scene he wrote. He says that’s just one example of how he and his peers continue to make art and explore the things they love, despite miles of distance between them.
Political science major Morufat Bello ’20 has found her professors taking similar creative approaches to teaching. When her dance class transitioned online, she said her instructor used Zoom to guide the students through their usual routines.
“I think we were all skeptical of what to expect, especially those of us who haven’t taken online classes before. But it went well,” she says. “I was expecting there to be some hiccups on the first day, but there weren’t.”
Amanda Youmans ’20 was thankful to return to some sense of normalcy as classes started up again. A psychology major who’s living in an off-campus apartment, she’s found it’s important to set expectations for herself. She created a dedicated workspace for her online classes and makes sure to communicate to her roommates when she needs to concentrate on lectures or coursework. She’s also found that it’s important to maintain a regular schedule and has started taking walks in the morning.
Youmans says professors’ virtual approaches have helped students in unexpected ways. As a peer success adviser and quantitative tutor, she sits in on a psychology statistics lecture. Because professors can make Zoom chats anonymous, she sees more students asking questions.
“I know a lot of people, especially underclassmen in big lectures, can feel really intimidated asking a qualifying question,” Youmans says. “The anonymity behind it is actually making people feel more comfortable asking those questions.”
For math major Jafar Vohra ’22, moving off campus wasn’t easy. A pitcher on Clark’s baseball team, he said it was tough to see his season cut short and have to say goodbye to friends. But Vohra said his professors were accommodating during the transition.
Math classes can be challenging to teach over Zoom, he acknowledges, but faculty have been uploading additional lecture videos in advance and posting PDFs to help students get on track before live sessions.
“The new pass/fail grading option is also very helpful,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m going to utilize that, but it’s a great option for people who want to.”
Above all, the Clarkies stressed the importance of staying flexible, communicating, and remembering that we’re all in this together.
“Each day, I’m hearing stories from our community and all over the country about how tough it’s been to do anything,” Iarrobino said. “Classes are important, but so is being kind and fair to ourselves.”