Professional Development
COVID-19 / Education / Remote work

Temple STEM students on the challenges of switching to remote learning

Plus, Temple University senior and editorial intern Marybeth Gerdelmann shares her personal thoughts on spending her last semester of college online, thanks to COVID-19.

Temple University's "Beury Beach" in March 2019. (Photo via

The spread of COVID-19 forced Temple University to move classes to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester. I’ve heard some students jokingly refer to it as Zoom University.

The area surrounding Temple’s bell tower that’s usually packed at this time of year is empty because many students have left campus, and those living in on-campus buildings were asked by the university to leave by Saturday, if they’re able to.

As a Temple senior, the probability of me walking across the stage at Liacouras Center this May is unlikely. The last thing I expected to see during my final months of college was a petition to postpone spring commencement to the fall.

I’ve seen many students, especially seniors, express their sadness about spending the rest of their time in college in online classes. The change came quick. Not all students can thrive in an online learning environment. Week one of remote learning has been a hard adjustment for some.

Zach Goncalves, an information science and technology student in the College of Science and Technology who is graduating in May, said most of his courses work well online, but lack of face-to-face instruction is difficult once material gets tougher.

“I am somebody who performs best, especially in courses that don’t necessarily interest me, through in-person instruction,” he said. “Once they announced the move to online, it felt as if the semester ended.”

Goncalves is also a teaching assistant who helps about 50 students with varying levels of tech experience set up database and web servers. Most of his work happens in a lab.

Last year, labs could only be completed on computer hardware provided by his department. Goncalves said he changed them so students could do them at home. He’s noticed issues even though students don’t need to physically be in the lab to complete work.

“It is much harder to support them now through Zoom,” he said. “So far, I’ve had much more reduced participation.”

Isabella Arnone, another teaching assistant in the College of Science and Technology, said remote classes have given her more time to work on long term-projects, but transitioning to being an online TA has been difficult.

“Students have to complete a timed assignment and usually have a lot of questions for me during the regular lab period,” said Arnone. “It’s a lot easier to help students with their troubles while in the room with them.”

I’m not a student in a STEM-focused major, but the transition to online learning has certainly been a change of pace.

What am I to do with all of this new free time? I’m still trying to figure it out.

My typical day included going to class and a couple of club meetings. Now, my roommates and I are planning a schedule of entertaining activities we can do together while we’re social distancing. I’m also getting some laughs thanks to a Facebook group where people have been sharing funny class Zoom moments.

One week of remote learning down, six more to go.

Companies: Temple University
Series: How to Work Remotely / Coronavirus

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