TLC and Library Develop Online Services

For many students, structured study hall from 8 to 10 p.m. on weeknights in the Class of 1964 Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) allows them to remain focused and efficient with their work; however, as a result of distance learning, the TLC and the Edsel Ford Memorial Library have transitioned to offering services online.

Distance learning has forced many students to develop new study habits. Some students are reporting difficulty focusing at home. James Yae ’23 said, “[During] online learning, I tend to lose focus a lot since looking at a screen for [an extensive] period of time [isn’t like] the sensation of being in a class. I also [have] difficulty [staying] organized, since everything, including assignments, is online rather than [on] paper.” 

Yae is not the only student who reflected on his difficulties with online learning. Kyle Roshankish ’20 noted similar problems, saying, “I think I am not alone in saying that there is a clear lack of motivation when it comes to online learning. Putting my best work forward, participating, and even showing up to class have all become extremely difficult.”

To counter the difficulties they are experiencing, students have created new ways to maintain engagement. Students have said that creating a routine was really helpful, and the TLC echoes the need for a solid schedule and repetition. 

Teachers have also noted that online classes pose challenges. Ms. Anna Klimmek, instructor in history, said, “[In online classes,] it is harder to gauge student interest and engagement. Without seeing my students in person, it is harder to pick up on how they are feeling or [even] what they are doing [while I am talking].”

Librarians note similar difficulties in shifting from all in-person resources to online access. Ms. Erikka Adams, emerging technology librarian, said, “We’re trying to keep [the school’s] own brand of excellence, but need to make developments with online learning and teaching.”

The Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) is also working on ways to help students manage online learning more effectively, while still offering peer tutoring via Zoom. Staff in the TLC are also making preparations for the possibility that distance learning might also be required for some students during the 2020-2021 school year.

Arhan Chhabra ’22

A page on the newly created “Maria” Student Intranet is dedicated to the TLC, with information on how to join a virtual study hall and helpful advice, such as study tips and a mock schedule, for students who are seeking assistance under these circumstances.

Study skills coaches and learning specialists are adapting to offer assistance from hundreds of miles away. Ms. Jane Herold, study skills coordinator, said, “The loss of the personal connection that we enjoyed when we were on campus is the biggest difference, but we are doing our best to replicate that experience on Zoom. I know Mrs. [Lisa] Fenton, [learning specialist], has mastered the white board function on Zoom, but I am still learning. [In addition,] it is a lot harder to work on grammar with students without the ability to sit side-by-side and look at sentences together.”
The library is providing students with Inter-Library Loans (ILLs) of books and articles, an online chatroom where students can ask for research help, new online databases, and an abundance of accessible ebooks and e-journals. Faculty on campus can still request resources because the library still has access to the mailroom, making lending paper copies an option for faculty. 

For students in Prep and Lower Mid Humanities, librarians have created LibGuides with resources specific to the class topics. These LibGuides centralize useful resources and help students find resources efficiently. However, without physical access to the library and difficulties with technology, some students have struggled to find scholarly sources. Mrs. Klimmek said, “The biggest challenge for the students seems to be getting access to good sources and figuring out how to access the VPN to get on the library databases.” 

As the COVID-19 situation continues to change, both the TLC and library are preparing to support distance learning for as long as necessary. The TLC is planning to release a Student Guide and a Parent Guide for online learning. Librarians are working to formalize the borrowing process of online books and textbooks, preparing for potential situations in which students are unable to acquire physical resources. Ms. Adams said, “If this [situation] is long-term, we can quickly make basic changes that will greatly benefit the general school community.”