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The Huron Students Behind the Scenes in the Shift to Online Learning

“Now I have a better idea of what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation, seeing what professors go through for online classes. Everyone has had to learn how to adapt.”

The shift to online learning this year has been unprecedented, to say the least. While each student and faculty member has been affected by this shift differently, all have seen a need for adaptability, creativity, and flexibility within a new learning atmosphere. 

One way that Huron responded to the online shift was through the creation of Digital Learning Student Internship positions. Since June, Huron students in these roles have been working with faculty members in different departments across campus to support the transition to online learning. Paige Hallman, Rohan Noronha, and David Denis – in Psychology, Governance Leadership and Ethics, and East Asian Studies, respectively – are three students working as interns helping professors this year.   

Much of the responsibility of these students was doing essential “grunt work”, as Denis remarked, helping the transition from the physical to online classroom run as smoothly as possible for faculty members and students. For all three interns, this essential role included tasks such as working on course OWL sites, posting quizzes, creating modules on how to succeed in the program, and digitizing textbooks. Hallman reflected, “we think we live in a super digital world, but there really isn’t much on how to learn from home and over Zoom.” 

Ultimately, the scope of these roles was also much broader than these tasks might suggest. The students also played a pivotal role in helping professors envision their courses within this “new normal” digital space. They were actively involved in dreaming up opportunities for the future of their program, with the opportunity to participate in creative brainstorming around how to increase student engagement online.  

While Digital Learning Internships are new at Huron, the roles are part of a larger trend within higher education to see students as active participants in curriculum development. For decades students have engaged in research partnerships with faculty, for example as Research Assistants; however, this sort of collaboration is generally less common in the teaching setting, especially at the undergraduate level. A partnership model can translate well to faculty-student collaboration on curriculum. Opportunities to partner with faculty in course design can allow students to have a larger voice in their own learning—not only in times of crisis.  

At Huron, the Digital Learning Interns have played a pivotal part in developing and supporting course development and trying to make online learning platforms accessible for students and faculty. When asked how this position has affected their perspective on digital learning, the students offered insightful and overall positive responses. Denis spoke to the value of adaptability in moving courses that professors have taught for years into an online format, and Hallman reflected, “It was a really daunting task at the beginning, but I think there is a lot of potential for online learning.”   Ultimately, the online shift opened a unique opportunity at Huron for students to partner with faculty to design learning opportunities, and for both faculty and students to gain a new perspective on the teaching and learning environment. As Noronha explained: “now I have a better idea of what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation, seeing what professors go through for online classes. Everyone has had to learn how to adapt.”