Tales from the Virtual UW-Parkside Campus | Kelly Burke
SOMERS – Every new semester brings challenges and opportunities. None, however, quite like the spring 2020 semester thousands of colleges and universities around the world adapting to a virtual learning environment.
UW-Parkside Communication Professor Jonathan Shailor has prepared his students to engage online. He shared a new syllabus on Canvas, set up discussion boards, has been connecting with the class through Blackboard Collaborate, and has been routinely checking in on his students. In fact, as an extra incentive for students, he offered extra credit to students for checking-in with him and letting him know how they were doing. He might not have expected Kelly Burke’s response.
Burke, a current Caledonia, Wis., resident who grew up in a small town 40 minutes south of Rockford, Ill., is triple majoring in management, marketing, and accounting. Burke works in road construction, an essential job, which has her putting in 50-hour work weeks. Normally she wouldn’t have been able to continue her classwork because of this, but with the shift to an online environment, she’s able to keep up with course work. “I have taken plenty of online classes,” she said. “I am just very impressed that all of the instructors I have were able to make the switch so flawlessly.
“Some of the things I like are the fact that I can still ‘attend’ my classes and connect with my instructors and classmates through the technology that UW-Parkside has in place. For the last few weeks, I have been able to log into one of my classes at the dedicated time to see and speak with the instructor and the rest of the class. I like that the instructors tried to keep things as close to the original schedule as possible. That helped with the continuity of class and not feeling so overwhelmed with the change.”
One of the positives that Burke focused on was that she felt a stronger connection to her class through the systems that UW-Parkside has been using for online instruction.
“With all of the uncertainty going on around us, it is nice to see familiar faces,” she said. “You feel more connected to the world when you see those familiar faces versus feeling like you are stuck in isolation and alone in this. Using BB Collaborate is a good difference compared to the experience I have had with my previous online classes. In my previous online classes, I never used BB Collaborate. Everyone was just a name stuck behind a keyboard. It is hard to connect with someone or as a class that way.”
Beyond her concerns about the shift to an online environment, Burke said that she felt a sense of relief that the university has been taking the situation seriously and admits that she’s “freaked out by all of the madness.”
“My initial thoughts were all over the place,” she said. “At first, I wondered if everything that was happening was necessary. Then I realized how serious it is and there was a sense of relief that UWP was taking the necessary precautions. I felt bad for the students who are seniors and that this is their last semester. There was some fear that maybe I won't do as well in some of my classes in the online format as I would have done physically being in a classroom setting. There was an initial hesitation of whether I even wanted to finish the semester out with all of the madness going on in the world. There were a lot of mixed emotions and thoughts when this initially occurred.
“The fifth person to die in Milwaukee from COVID-19 was a tenant in the apartment building I own. My oldest son had been put in quarantine for 14 days because he was not feeling well, but they wouldn’t test him because he is young and mostly healthy. So I am ready for this to just be over with and everyone else to be okay.”
University of Wisconsin-Parkside