Non-traditional students benefitting from expanded remote learning

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Leer en español: Estudiantes no tradicionales comparten sus experiencias de estudiar a distancia

A lot of traditional BYU students are hoping the university will decide to open up for on-campus classes this coming fall, but some of the non-traditional students are hoping for just the opposite.

Cassandra Hill sitting at her computer. Hill is a non-traditional BYU student who takes independent study classes from Ontario, Canada. For spring term she’s been able to take a BYU campus class remotely. (Cassandra Hill).

Cassandra Hill has been taking BYU independent study classes from her home in Ontario, Canada, since last August. When BYU announced that campus classes would be moving online for spring and summer terms, she saw it as an opportunity to take more classes and finish them quicker.

Hill is taking one three-credit class spring term and said it has pushed her out of her comfort zone. Although she has had to rely more on her husband and children to help with the household responsibilities, she said it’s been worth it and she hopes to take more remote classes in the fall.

“I am very grateful that this unique opportunity opened up at a time when life has been very different for most of us,” Hill said.

Cindy Thomas, left, with her family, dressed up to work on the Thriller dance she’s learning in her remote BYU dance class. Thomas is an independent study student who has had the opportunity to take some classes remotely spring term. (Cindy Thomas)

Cindy Thomas, a general studies student living in Texas, has had a very similar experience. Thomas’s schedule cleared up when the pandemic started because her kids couldn’t go to their various after school activities anymore and the ESL class that she taught twice a week wouldn’t be meeting. So, when her program invited students to take remote classes from BYU for spring and summer terms, Thomas decided it would be a good way to spend her time.

Thomas said one of the things that she’s gained from the experience is the opportunity to share her education with her children. As part of her introductory dance class, she has to watch a lot of documentaries along with doing weekly exercises. She said being able to include her children in these activities has helped them grow closer as a family.

“They’ve all sat through it with me and they think it’s great. It’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s a good learning opportunity,” Thomas said.

Thomas also said she’s glad she has the opportunity to take campus classes because they can be done much quicker than independent study courses, which normally take a year.

“This way I can get this done already and pack it up,” Thomas said.

Not all non-traditional students have had the same kind of experience, however. Mindy Peterman was a full-time student on the BYU campus before the pandemic, and she said she’s had a hard time adjusting to doing classes from home, especially during spring term when classes are accelerated.

“I’m here, like my body is present here in the home more, but my mind has been way more diverted with school,” she said.

Peterman said this sense of disconnect, along with the tension of being home all day, has shifted the way her family interacts. She said she’s glad to be home with her kids, but that she spends most of her day in her office working on schoolwork.

“Our dynamic, our flow of how we do things, has changed. I don’t know for the better or for the worse, though. I feel like it’s just what everybody’s doing — just trying to figure out how to manage life being totally flipped from what it normally is,” Peterman said.

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