9 ways to get ready for remote learning at PSU

Spring term usually coincides with lounging in the sun on Urban Plaza, a plethora of festivals and activities and a humming, vibrant campus. But this year, spring at Portland State will look a little different.

The trees will still be in bloom, but a global coronavirus outbreak has prompted a shift at universities nationwide — and PSU is not exempt.

Folks in our Office of Academic Innovation and Office of Information Technology have been hard at work making sure our students, faculty and staff are ready for an all-remote spring term, and have created this Remote Learning Checklist:

  1. Learn what the plan is for each of your courses. Look for communication via email or D2L from your instructors, and read your courses’ syllabi carefully.
  2. Check out the Student Guide for Learning Remotely which covers many technical details and the Remote Learning Kit which covers additional tips for learning remotely.
  3. Get Zoom-ready. You’re very likely to have at least one instructor using this video conferencing software for virtual meetings this term. If you’ve never used this before at PSU, we have a few suggestions for getting started on Zoom.
  4. Schedule yourself. Look over the dates in your course syllabi, keep track of tasks in a calendar or planner, and give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to complete your work. With no in-person class meetings, it’s extra important to pay attention to how you’re spending your time.
  5. Take care. Give yourself regular breaks from your work. Exercise, eat snacks, and gift yourself with treats when you finish tasks.
  6. Stay tuned to PSU communication. The university is regularly sharing updates and resources to support you through this remote term via emails, Virtual Viking newsletter and on our social media channels.
  7. Ask for help when you need it. See more information about accessing campus resources remotely.
  8. Stay connected to friends, family, and classmates remotely. Social networks are more important than ever right now.
  9. Take a breath. Be patient with yourself, your classmates, and your instructors. Everyone is trying to figure this out for the first time together.

For additional information, visit PSU’s Coronavirus Response webpage.

Sophie Soprani, Office of Academic Innovation

Senior Surrealism

By Maya Young

Over three years ago, my parents and I drove down from Seattle to Portland to tour the PSU campus. After visiting a few other campuses including Western Washington University and Evergreen College, I was instantly attracted to Portland’s unique urban setting and was very excited about the number of food carts scattered throughout the city and the campus itself. Moving ahead to September of 2017, I moved into the Ondine Residence Hall as an overwhelmed sophomore who had just graduated high school and had never lived on their own before. I quickly found a love for the campus, new friends, and all of the great food that Portland had to offer.

Flash forward to now, I am a week away from moving back home to Seattle and just completed the last of my finals for the winter term. Yesterday was my last day attending classes on-campus and I spent my walks to class looking around PSU for what felt like the last time. Almost three years have passed since I first moved to Portland, and while some stressful classes and long nights have made it feel lengthier, it simultaneously feels as if I just got here. My experience so far has shown me that being in college can be described as both the best of times and the worst of times (yes, it’s cheesy, I know). I have made amazing memories with friends, built long-lasting relationships, took interesting and useful courses in my major, and pursued a variety of great opportunities. At the same time, I also stressed over homework, experienced hardships with friends and roommates, and dwelled on my future after college. 

Despite these varying experiences, I am immensely grateful for my time at PSU and know that I will be leaving as a more well-rounded person ready to conquer anything that is ahead of me.

Coronavirus Courtesy

by Julien-Pierre Campbell

 

“You know,” my friend said, “we really don’t need to be worried about the coronavirus. Old people are really the only ones dying, and —” She paused. “Oh, well, I guess people with no immune systems too, or cancer, or something I read that online.” 

I knew, rationally, that my friend meant these as words of comfort. As an immunocompromised person, however, it felt like a nail in my coffin. Not only did it feel as if she was telling me I’d be the first to go, but it also felt as if I was supposed to celebrate this fact. 

It’s a very scary time right now. Colleges are closing and friends are abruptly returning to their home states. Concerts and plays are getting cancelled. People are buying enough cleaning supplies and toilet paper to fill a bunker. Friends refuse to hug or shake hands. Day-to-day life changes rapidly as more warnings are put in place. Even something simple as grocery shopping feels like an epic journey. It’s all the more stressful when you’re a target demographic for this pandemic. 

I’m immunocompromised. Though I deal with various physical limitations (such as chronic pain and a limp), this is what affects my lifestyle the most. I catch every cold, flu, and stomach bug that goes around. Strep throat, ear infections, chills, dizziness — these are familiar to me. I’m allergic to everything I touch, from grass and plants to dust to pet hair. I’m constantly covered in painful, itchy hives. I have a cough more often than I don’t. My nose is always stuffed up or running. I’ve had bad fevers three times this year, and it is only March. 

This makes life difficult. What makes it even more difficult is person after person repeating the narrative that only the eldery and the immunocompromised are at serious risk for death by coronavirus. It’s insulting. I hear, “Don’t worry! You might die, but everyone else will be fine! Your life is of less value to me, because I have a strong immune system!” 

As much as I try to be thick-skinned, this hurts. Your immunocompromised friends’ lives are of equal value to those who do not deal with this. Please be kind, and practice sensitivity. Silly as it may sound, put yourself in the shoes of those who are scared in the face of this threat. It’s not only a threat to our schooling and jobs, it is a threat to our lives.

A Listening Ear

I knew that I wanted to squeeze in some more volunteer work this term, in order to feel as prepared as possible for my application to my graduate program in the fall. However, I was almost out of the house 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. already, and wasn’t sure if I would be able to make time to add another commitment on. I heard from a couple of my psychology professors that crisis counseling was a great way to break into psychology volunteering, but to be honest, I was a little intimidated by thinking of going to a center, taking calls, and essentially getting empathy exhaustion. Then, I’d have to go home at night and probably go to sleep right after, which I knew wouldn’t help me feel cheery. 

With a bit of research, I found I could actually apply for a volunteer position with a text line and take conversations on my laptop. I’ve only been doing it for a little over a month, but to be honest, I wish I had started much sooner. I really appreciate the ability to choose my schedule, and change it week to week. There’s also the ability to debrief with other counselors when hard conversations happen, and you receive constant support from your supervisor. 

It is tough though, especially when you can tell someone doesn’t feel better after talking with you, and there’s not much more you can do for them. My hardest conversations are with younger people that text in, and may have a harder time understanding that we can’t say or do certain things for them when they’re clearly in need. But I’m glad that I’m giving some of my time each week to volunteering and offering my trained and compassionate ears to people that really, really need it. 

I currently put in about four or five hours each week, shifting back and forth between splitting that up into two days and doing it all on Saturday. However, over spring break, I’ll probably be putting in a lot more time. 

It’s great practice for my future as a therapist to learn to leave it behind when I close my laptop and to learn that you can’t fix everything for someone, only be there for them to provide support, resources, and validation of what they’re going through. But that’s still pretty special, in my opinion. It can weigh on me sometimes, and it’s not for everyone, but I think I’ll probably be volunteering for a long time.

Running Out of Spoons

Untitled design-3 By Claire Golden

About two years ago, I got sick and doctors couldn’t figure out why. Suddenly my world shrunk to the size of my house. Getting through my college classes was a monumental effort when I had absolutely no energy. Some days I couldn’t leave the house because I was too sick to my stomach. Other days I would fall asleep on a bench between classes because I was just so exhausted, while walking up the stairs left me doubled-over waiting for my heart rate to get back to normal. I would make it through the day only to go home and fall asleep at 9 PM. 

It was around that time that I encountered an article by Christine Miserandino called “The Spoon Theory” that describes her experience living with chronic illness. Being a “spoonie” means you only have a certain amount of spoons, which represent both mental and physical energy, a day. It was the perfect metaphor for my experience. Getting a diagnosis and feeling better has been a long process and I’m still not at 100%. But I’ve learned some coping mechanisms…including bringing books with me to the hospital for comfort.

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The most important thing I’ve learned is knowing when to take a break. Some days I didn’t have the energy to study as hard as I wanted to…and that’s okay. Pushing yourself to the breaking point doesn’t help anybody. I learned to ask for help when I needed it, whether from my family or friends. I also talked to my professors about my health issues, all of whom were extremely sympathetic. Don’t forget that the Disability Resource Center can provide accommodations, too.

The biggest thing I learned is that my health is more important than grades. It’s hard to study when you’re curled up on the bathroom floor, even when you have a final exam the next day. I work hard in school, and it’s important to me, but sometimes you have to give yourself a break. It’s hard to keep going when it feels like your body is working against you. But I try to take it one day at a time. There’s no shame in taking it slowly if you need to. Remember, you aren’t the only #spoonie here at PSU.

Why I Save My Course Materials

Finals week is fast approaching, and spring break will be here before we know it! Many students are already thinking about reselling their textbooks and can’t wait to toss their notes. However, I’d argue that there are benefits to keeping class materials.

Old assignments can be useful in future classes

Keeping graded essays from previous courses has been helpful to me in the past, because they can help me ascertain what instructors look for in good papers. Of course, all professors are different, with their own pet peeves and preferences. However, if one instructor makes a constructive remark, chances are that advice can be applied to future assignments with future instructors. For example, in an English composition course I took in community college, the instructor gave us a handout with a list of mistakes English instructors are tired of seeing, ranging from grammatical errors to flaws in logic. This has been an incredibly helpful list to have around as I’ve continued my academic journey. Past research papers have also become a resource — if I didn’t use a source in a previous paper, I can use it in a future paper on the same topic, or use that source as a starting point for future research. 

Keeping old materials can help you get your money’s worth 

Let’s face it: college is expensive, and human brains are flawed when it comes to retaining information long-term. The notes you scrawl in Statistics and the study guide you fashion for French have value in both time and money. Saving materials from a past class is a way of preserving what you’ve learned, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve taken the class. 

Let’s say you took time off between Class 101 and Class 102. If you kept your course materials, you’d have easy access to what you learned in 101 to refresh your memory before taking 102. Also, you wouldn’t have to pay to take the course again or spend hours combing through Google trying to cobble together a free crash course. Even when you don’t take a hiatus from your education, you forget a lot over school breaks, and having materials around to review before going back can be helpful! Not to mention, the resale value for books is far less than the original price, so if your text has valuable information or you’ll want to read it again, it might be worth it to just keep it. 

Looking over old work can be enjoyable 

It’s validating to look back at my writing from years ago and see how I’ve improved. Depending on the course, re-reading old handouts and texts can also be fun! For example, I’ve kept books from my literature classes I particularly enjoy. A textbook from my Interpersonal Communications class at my last college sits on my shelf, because it holds information on skills and situations that will help me throughout my life — not just within the quarter I took that class. 

How do you select what class materials to keep?

Quality over quantity: it’s important to pare down your notes, books, and assignments to what’s relevant. Here are some tips when deciding what to keep:

  • Is the information novel, or basic? Is this information you could find from a cursory Google search?
  • Is this course relevant to your major? Did you learn things that would apply to future classes?
  • Is this a difficult topic for you, and would it help you to review the concepts before taking the next course in the sequence?
  • Do you enjoy the subject? Were the readings interesting, and if you enjoyed the texts, would it make financial sense to keep them instead of selling them?
  • If it’s an assignment, is the instructor’s feedback constructive? Did you learn something valuable?
  • Do you have the physical or digital space to store old materials?

At the end of every term, I ask myself these questions while I comb through my class materials to help me narrow down what to save. This method has helped me determine what’s useful to toss or sell, and what’s useful to keep around. 

I have a small archive of class materials from previous courses that I keep in binders, and I thumb through everything periodically. Some people might raise an eyebrow at this collection, but this works for me, and a similar system might help you during your time in college.

Spring Cleaning

By: Adair Bingham

Fall and winter have long been my favorite times of the year. For all of my life, I have adored the frosty morning chills, the muted reds and maroons of the leaves, and even the never-ending rainfall. It’s a naturally quiet, almost serene time of the year, and I’m sad to see it come and go so fast.

Although fall and winter are my personal favorite seasons, I will admit that I am cautiously hopeful and optimistic about what’s to come as spring and summer draw near. Fall and winter proved to be quite challenging this time around, and they’ve both left me wanting to change my attitude about some things and start fresh, in a sense.

With spring just around the corner, I want to see it as an overdue way to start fresh, just three months late from the new year. I wasn’t able to get off on the right foot at the start of 2020, despite waxing poetic about how important it is to take on new challenges with a bright and cheery smile, especially at the start of a new decade. Maybe a new season is just the change I need, and I’m going into spring with just that kind of perspective. 

As much as I enjoy dark and frosty weather, I do think that I’m in dire need of some sunshine. Its been proven that weather can have a profound impact on not only your mood, but also your emotional state, so it’s a good idea to understand how the weather may impact you by being in tune with not only your body but also your mind. With the way things have been going for me recently,  I think a little ray of sunshine is all that I need, and maybe something that we could all use, too. 

I’m assuming that I’m not only one, so with beaming and dazzling weather on its way, I’d also say it’s for the best if we all take some initiative to welcome spring with open arms. So start your spring cleaning a little early, start picking your favorite flowers for your garden, and get ready to welcome in a breath of fresh air!