by Morgan Culp
Zoom, email, and online discussion boards are all things students at The University of Tampa have had to get used to in recent weeks. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, all Florida universities have suspended face-to-face education and switched over to online classes. Professors have been trying to find ways to keep their students engaged in a time where many are struggling.
Megan Lopez, lecturer of First-Year Studies, strives to educate her students on a variety of topics inside and outside of the classroom. She aims to be a resource for her students at all times, but now even more than ever.
“I don’t think the way that I approach education has changed,” Lopez said. “I think that it just looks different from the classroom.”
Since UT’s transition to online learning, Lopez has worked with her five mentors for her eight sections of BAC 102 to find different ways to keep students engaged, involved and excited to learn.
“I am working more now than I have before,” said Alex Jmean, junior entrepreneurship major and BAC mentor. “I like to help students solve problems hands-on, so it has been more difficult for me.”
Many mentors are buckling down to assure that first-year students are doing okay navigating a new way of learning and that they have support systems they can lean on.
“We have to be cognizant of answering them in a way that they feel like you’re still there for them even though we’re physically disconnected,” said Jessica LaFontaine, senior psychology major and BAC mentor. “This isn’t a time for us to slack off even though we’re at home; mentors have to be aware that other people need us still.”
Other than class meetings via Zoom, Lopez and her mentors have also created GroupMe messaging systems for each class, and are offering many fun events and activities students can take part in to get extra credit.
Since UT’s transition online, each week there is a different theme or challenge for Lopez’s students to participate in “Spartan Seconds,” the “one second a day” app for extra credit. To create the final product, a student takes a short video each day of the week depending on what the theme is, then they turn in the final video into their GroupMe chat for their peers to see. This week’s theme was Spirit Week: Monday was PJ Day, Tuesday was Tacky Tourist Day, Wednesday was Rep your High School Day, Thursday was Team Day and Friday was UT Spirit Day.
“This is going better than I expected,” LaFontaine said, “I am really surprised about how much student participation we are getting and seeing the students connecting even more online. They aren’t giving up.”
With student participation on the rise, Lopez has started hosting weekly activities for students to come together and decompress. These get-togethers occur via Zoom on Thursdays. The first one was a trivia night this week.
“We’re giving everyone space to be intentional and help people connect during this time,” said Lopez, “There’s a lot of different circumstances students are in and I think that giving them extra opportunities to engage with each other and have fun is really important.”
There was more participation than expected for trivia night this week which included questions about Disney and popular Netflix series. Lopez, her mentors, and her students look forward to “Pet Show and Tell” via Zoom next week.
Morgan Culp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org