MOULTRIE, Ga. — A dining room table, an outdoor patio, a quiet bedroom -- these are all places where PCOM South Georgia students are receiving their education.
As the college commits to the safety and well-being of the community and visitors, the first-year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine students are receiving their education remotely. Learning online, often referred to as distance learning, is not a new fad, the college said in a press release, but it has become crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic with many public schools and colleges choosing to adapt to this way of teaching.
Using educational software, PCOM South Georgia students are able to attend and participate in lectures with simply a wi-fi connection and computer. Much like in a physical classroom, professors present slide shows, talk to students and answer their questions. Students are able to use a chat feature or their computer microphone to ask questions while professors are presenting the material. Faculty members have also set up virtual office hours so that they can work one-on-one with students as they were doing on campus.
Jennifer Shaw, PhD, associate professor of physiology, is teaching remotely for the first time in her career. PCOM South Georgia faculty members use a variety of modalities to teach online.
“We have the luxury of being a small campus,” Shaw said. “I’m doing my best to talk to them and answer questions and recreate the classroom environment. It’s not the same as being in person, but it’s the best we can do in this situation.
“The situation is changing daily,” she said. “It’s different as a first-year medical student. The stakes are so high, and there is so much that the students need to learn. We’re doing everything we can and adjusting as we go.”
Jason Walker, PhD, associate professor of physiology, says the students have stayed engaged and responsive to the virtual classes.
“The chat feature is phenomenal because students who normally don’t ask questions have started speaking up,” he said. “That really helps the facilitation of the lecture and is adding value to their classmates’ learning.”
During this time, and going forward, Walker believes the first-year DO students will continue to adjust to the change and face it with perseverance.
“Our medical students are resilient,” he said. “It’s nothing to them to be given an obstacle and work through it.”
Many of PCOM South Georgia’s students have taken this adjustment in stride and are enjoying the change of pace. Sadie Daugereaux (DO ‘23), a Louisiana native, has taken this as an opportunity to go back to her home state and learn near family and friends.
“I took a few online classes in undergrad but they certainly were not as interactive,” she said. “The professors have been much easier to communicate with than any professor I had for an online course.”
Matthew Powell (DO ‘23), chair of the inaugural class, says he is embracing the new technology and is communicating constantly with professors.
“I’m enjoying being able to take my time working through the material for the first time to make sure I understand everything fairly well before moving on,” he said. “I am so impressed with PCOM and how smoothly things have been going. It is amazing that they have secured access to these platforms and how well they work.”
As medical students, understanding this pandemic as it relates to social distancing is crucial and beneficial, says student Aliza Perez (DO ‘23)
“Being that we actually learned about the coronavirus and many other viruses this year, I am better able to understand the severity of the situation and how the virus is transmitted -- something that was beyond my comprehension during undergrad,” she said. “This change will test my discipline and resilience, which will ultimately be good for me as I will deal with public health emergencies and constant change once I start working in the hospital.”
To learn more about how PCOM South Georgia is adapting to changes brought on by COVID-19, visit www.pcom.edu/coronavirus.