Lyang is a recent UC San Diego graduate in Physiology and Neuroscience. She lives in University City.
As the full year of “Zoom University”Concludes, here are my thoughts on teaching online as a person who has been both a UC San Diego student and a teaching assistant. Online courses greatly increase flexibility. Students can effectively go at their own pace when watching pre-recorded asynchronous lessons, can choose to spend time on their lessons whenever they want, and don’t have to attend lessons at set times. As an off-campus student, online classes also meant that I no longer had to waste time in traffic or looking for an open parking space, freeing up my time.
But over time I started to notice the disparity of resources that online learning exacerbated for students from different backgrounds – I had no trouble finding a quiet environment to sit and learn, but many of my peers did not have the same luxury and the same house. situation. Some studies have shown that not only does online education fail to deliver the same level of quality as face-to-face education, but also contributes to increasing the gaps in academic achievement between socio-economic groups.
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I continued to experience this gap at UC San Diego each term, online learning continued; some teachers needed synchronous elements for lessons, such as proctored exams at specific times on Zoom or synchronous discussion sections to earn credits. This assumes that all of their students have a stable Wi-Fi connection, have a webcam and microphone, and are not affected by different time zones. Students without these privileges are disproportionately affected and are even more negatively affected without proper housing.
Some professors have distributed the course points in the form of several lower stakes exams instead of the entire grade being dependent on a semester and a final. I found it to be a double-edged sword: while there was less pressure for an exam, all of my classes suddenly implemented weekly quizzes and written homework in addition to exams, effectively tripling all my workload. It tested my academic discipline, which was already dwindling in response to the self-paced nature of online education. Being stuck at home during a pandemic while having online classes decreased my focus and ability to take the class, making me feel even more more drained than I was in previous quarters.
Another difficulty was how distant I felt from the teacher – having my camera turned off fostered my daydreaming tendencies as I convinced myself that I could catch up by reviewing the class recordings. It wasn’t that the teachers were no longer available. It’s because I didn’t have enough energy.
As a teaching assistant, I saw my own feeling reflected: it was difficult to build relationships with students because many turn off their cameras.
Gaining student attention, let alone encouraging student participation, was difficult without seeing their faces and bending down to call on students to answer questions on the spot. However, even with the disconnect from this new style of teaching, I was still able to connect with my students as we bonded with online schooling and our track record; I am very grateful to have been their mentor in the class.
I think there are certainly many lessons to be learned from the accessibility of distance learning that can be implemented upon our return to campus, such as continuing online office hours in conjunction with hours in person to allow maximum flexibility. UC San Diego should implement major course sections to be taught fully or partially online, in order to best meet the wide variety of UC San Diego students and their preferences. The fact that UC San Diego has successfully transitioned to online courses proves that the university has the ability to offer remote and flexible options.
However, this could be a slippery slope for some students, as online learning is advantageous for students from privileged communities, and blended education may disadvantage students from underrepresented communities and should be approached with caution and implemented fairly.
While I personally don’t like online education, it can be someone else’s academic utopia. Students should benefit from appropriate accommodation and flexibility in their education; the pandemic has shown that online education can be made accessible and adaptable.