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Delivering News From The Source

Waldorf at a Distance

By Diana Humble

A glimpse inside one of Dr. Clark’s new, virtual classrooms.

When students went home for spring break in early March, the thought of never returning did not cross their minds.

After an extended spring break, Waldorf University’s residential courses transitioned to a distance learning format from March 23 until the end of the semester.

When the news broke, many students decided to return to their family homes, but others had no choice but to remain in Forest City.

“It’s very quiet in the dorms,” said Dildora Farhatova, an international biology student. “The cafeteria is trying their best to follow hygiene rules and not put people at risk while providing students with food, which we all appreciate.”

On-campus activities have been suspended for the rest of the semester, but students are not allowed to move out of the dorms. Campus residence halls are closed to any student not currently occupying their room.

“The transition to online classes wasn’t difficult for me,” said junior criminal justice and exercise science major Nick Farkas. “But I’m very lonely living alone on campus. It’s hard to stay motivated.”

Senior communications major, Jason Murray, felt the social aspect of distance learning posed the greatest challenge to students.

“There’s nothing like that real face-to-face feel in regards to learning something,” he said. “But (distance learning) has benefitted me in a sense of timeliness. I’ve been more productive because of it.”

For seniors, the postponement of commencement can be very disheartening.

“I would really like to have a graduation ceremony,” said Mackinze Thill, a senior psychology and criminal justice major. “It can be in the summer or fall, but I would like to walk with my classmates and have the chance to say a proper ‘see you later’ to my friends, professors and the campus.”        

Dr. Ryan Clark of the English and creative writing departments has been trying to lead with compassion.

“I’ve found the transition to online learning to be extraordinarily challenging for me as a teacher,” he said. “Primarily because I feel all of my sharpest teaching tools can only be used when interacting with an in-person group of students.”

Dr. Clark’s composition classes are scheduled for 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning. If he were to require attendance over Blackboard Collaborate, Waldorf’s face-to-screen learning interface, students on the west coast would have class as early as 5:30 and 6:30 respectively.

“I was not going to ask my students to attend class that early when they’re already overwhelmed with work and the stress of dealing with being quarantined in the midst of a global pandemic,” Dr. Clark said. “A lack of proper rest does nobody any good in that situation.

Fortunately, the Waldorf community has no shortage of grit.

“Nobody signed up for this situation, and I hope we can get through it with an emphasis on compassion and patience,” Dr. Clark said.