Twenty-nine students, spanning from Canada to China, are signing in for synchronous Zoom classes at Goshen College this semester – a remote learning option offered by the college in response to COVID-19.

When classes are in session, a camera shows professors and classmates present in the room, while the rest of the instruction takes place on the learning platform, Moodle. 

For Olivia Koop and Xudong Sun, this means a high level of flexibility is required in order to complete their assignments on their own schedule.

Koop, a sophomore, does her remote learning from Ontario, Canada. 

Though she planned to be on campus, Koop ultimately decided it felt safer staying closer to home as the pandemic continued. 

It is a seven-hour drive to the campus from her home, but the distance didn’t matter to her when she chose to come to Goshen. Her parents met at Goshen College, and its sense of community made it feel familiar.

This semester, the GC community will feel a little different.

Studying biochemistry and molecular biology, Koop had to accommodate her classes for remote learning because most science classes need to be in person for the lab component. She will have to wait until next semester for those classes, and she hopes it will be different by then. 

“I hope to come back in January,” Koop said. “Then I will be able to take my science classes. If I can’t, I don’t know what I’ll do about those.”

Next year, she wants to be a new student orientation leader on campus. This semester, she was a virtual leader off-campus for students opting for remote learning. Koop spoke with more than 10 freshmen who will be online for the year. She reached out through emails and answered any questions they might have to make the adjustment easier.

“Today I was just on my computer working at a desk, other times I’m a camera in the back,” Koop said, of zooming into classes. “In these circumstances, I only hear the professor through their microphone and watch over all the other students listening at their desks.”

For freshman Xudong Sun, his time at Goshen College is beginning virtually, with a twelve-hour time difference. 

He found Goshen College to be a great place for him as an international student, and the area was familiar to him after graduating from Bethany Christian High School down the road. He is a computer science major with plans to continue onto graduate school afterward.

He chose remote learning for his health as the United States currently has the highest number of pandemic cases in the world. If he were to return, his family worried for him.

Regarding his classes, Sun joins them in real time with the rest of the students and spends time working on assignments beforehand. When a class is at 2:00 p.m. in Indiana, that means a class at 2:00 a.m. in his time.

“I always do my classes at night until midnight,” Sun said. “When the class is past 2:00 a.m., I will feel so sleepy. I try to drink coffee and do everything to wake myself up.”

Both students report challenges to online learning making it difficult for them to focus. The challenges are less of technical difficulties and more of understanding what happens during class. 

Koop and Sun’s return to campus depends on how the pandemic unfolds. If it continues, both Koop and Sun will continue remote learning for the spring semester, but they plan on returning if the numbers settle down. 

“I think I would like to come back… but the numbers need to settle down first,” Koop said.