The Virtual Semester: How UMass Gerontology Students are Adapting to Remote Learning While Campus Remains Closed

Claire Wickersham home office

STEP INTO MY OFFICE: Author Claire Wickersham turned her bedroom closet into a phone booth-sized office with a standing work station.

By Claire Wickersham

Students are making a lot of adjustments in the spring semester driven online by the COVID-19 pandemic. New technology and different work environments bring a whole new meaning to work and home life balance.

The good news: Many are adapting well to new ways of learning and working, often adding an element of creativity to the process.

For UMass Boston gerontology students, some classes are held in real-time via apps like Zoom, while others are recorded. Some use PowerPoint with voiceovers for slides. Assistantship work is being done off campus and meetings held virtually.

Some students have even gone home for the remainder of the semester.

“It is interesting working on my PhD in my childhood bedroom,” says second-year student Taylor Jansen, who has been working from her parents’ home in Illinois. “Because working from home may become the ‘new normal,’ I am trying to follow more routines each day to get out of my mental vacation mode.”

New working environments have been challenging to adapt to for many students. Roommates, family members and limited work space all pose complications.

“I try to have a specific non-bedroom place to work, and geographically compartmentalize activities within our apartment so I have a space for work that’s separate from my spaces for sleeping and fun” says Shayna Gleason, a first-year PhD student. “My partner and I trade off who’s in what room just for variety.”

But Elizabeth Gallagher, a third-year gerontology PhD student, organized a variety of places to study.  “I usually do work on my exercise bike, which I have set up to hold my laptop on the handlebars,” she says. “I have done homework laying in my hammock outside, and also set up my tent to do homework under.”

So what advice do students have for their classmates about remote studying and research?

“Try to get outside as much as possible to do work or take breaks,” says Gallagher. “Keep your workspace as clean as possible and take multiple breaks to get your body moving throughout the day – things like stretching, yoga, walks.”

Nidya Velasco Roldan, a PhD candidate, says “some advantages of working from home is the quick access, no commute, and having less distractions.”

She also finds herself to be more productive without the option to chat with other students, as might be the case when working from campus. When working from home, she also appreciates all the coffee and food available anytime at bargain prices, as well as the money saved on transportation.

One last thing: Like many other students, she’s also enjoying spending more time with her cats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *