New website rocks student learning

Published by Joe Wells, Date: August 20, 2020
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Editor’s note: One staff member of The Rocket is hired as a Peer2Peer support partner featured on the Rock Learning Now page. This staff member did not review this article prior to publication.

SRU’s newest resource aims to better prepare students for an unconventional semester by utilizing online resources from video streaming to live chat rooms.

Born out of a committee set up over the summer, Rock Learning Now covers what students can expect whether their courses are in-person, fully remote or somewhere in between.

While preparing faculty for online teaching they realized there were not many resources for students taking courses online, said Bradley Wilson, associate provost of academic affairs and integrated learning. What resources the university had were spread out everywhere and not easily accessible, he said.

It was important that Rock Learning Now not only provides students with the information they need day one but throughout the semester as well, Wilson said.

He added that typically students have time to figure the ins and outs of D2L and MySRU but with most courses fully remote this semester, students do not have that luxury.

Wilson said input from the student-members of the committee was that students, when they have a question, usually reach out to their peers first. Addressing how students could do this while away from campus was a top priority.

The solution was Peer2Peer, an online chat room, where students could jump in and ask current students for advice. If students need further help, the academic support partners can move the discussion to services like Zoom where they can screen share and walk the, through any complicated steps.

Most of the partners have experience mentoring students, Wilson said. Peer2Peer partners have assisted roughly 30 students so far.

Currently, two partners are always available six days a week. Wilson said the service will be running for the rest of the month and then they will evaluate if this is something students are using and decide to keep it running.

Knowing what they wanted the website and peer support to achieve was only half of the project – making it engaging for students, the other. That is where the student members of the committee stepped up again, Wilson said.

The six student members suggested short videos students could choose to watch based on what they were looking for. The committee produced videos introducing students to different sections of the website and searched through Google and YouTube for specific videos on topics like understanding a syllabus and note taking.

The website will evolve over time as feedback comes in from students using the resources and better information becomes available. Wilson said he would like to see more things on the page be produced by the university.

“Hopefully, we get Rocky involved and our students,” Wilson said.

While the university has been getting the word out about Rock Learning Now through email and social media blasts, some returning students have heard about it but don’t think it applies to them as they are familiar with the different portals SRU employs.

Daniel Young, a junior communications major, recalled getting an email about the website but has not checked it out yet. He said that while he is familiar with applications used in his courses, he still struggles with time management now that his classes are online.

Wilson said it is also important for students to understand that the website and Peer2Peer are not just for new students. While part of the website is about getting started, Wilson said it is also about “doing your best.”

For students who may be nervous about starting the semester, or feeling overwhelmed, Rock Learning now is a great place to find all the resources you need in one place, Wilson said.

“Our goal is to do what we can to make it easier and comfortable for students,” Wilson said.

Joe is a senior communication major with a concentration in converged journalism. This is his first year with The Rocket as assistant news editor. Before joining The Rocket, Joe worked at Butler County Community College’s student newspaper along with a short-lived career as public affairs sergeant (along with many other assignments) with the United States Army. When not covering campus news, Joe spends his weekends with his fiancée and son in Slippery Rock.

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