The following submissions document the experiences of some international students with the transition to remote education for spring quarter 2020 due to coronavirus.
Technology has drastically changed most people’s lives over the past 15 years. We can hardly remember what it was like before the debut of the iPhone in 2007 — just 13 years ago. Twitter was founded 14 years ago, and now one of the most influential people on the planet, the President of the United States, sometimes sends out “information” over 100 times a day through the app.
Despite all of these technological advances, university life hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years — we still go to a lecture hall with over 200 people, professors still use chalkboards with chalk dust everywhere, and while we may have GauchoSpace and Umail, most students still prefer hand-written homework. There’s something irreplaceable about this aspect of learning.
In 2020, everything changed due to COVID-19. I have spent 95% of my time during the past two and a half months indoors in my apartment in Isla Vista. COVID-19 has forced an evolution to remote learning.
Remote learning is efficient, or at least it was intended to be. The idea is simple: By cutting out some of the unnecessary parts of daily life at a university, such as commuting and coming and going from class to class, we save time. It is meant to be a direct connection to knowledge and professors. Yet my experience is that there are a lot more factors to take into account.
First, not going to school breaks the psychological state of studying. Rolling out of bed and opening my 32-inch display screen, which I also use to watch YouTube and play games, doesn’t make me feel like studying. I try my best to avoid using my laptop for leisure during the day, but it’s unavoidable. It requires much persistence to stay focused.
The idea is simple: By cutting out some of the unnecessary parts of daily life at a university, such as commuting and coming and going from class to class, we save time.
Compare this to sitting in a classroom, which is quiet and has hundreds of people around you studying. Even if you drift away for a bit, you usually come right back to focus because it “feels” like the right thing to do. As far as efficiency is concerned, while cutting back some inefficient activities, remote learning also introduces new ones.
Second, because it is more or less a forced change, a lot of details have not been figured out. For example, many lecturers are not used to writing on a tablet and screen recording, so now, they make videos talking over prepared slides. As a result, students can no longer see the steps of derivation, and they lose their natural signs and annotation in graphics.
Another issue is with homework grading. The process usually involves students handing homework into a collection box before a deadline; then, the TA would collect them and distribute them to graders. Now, many classes use the GauchoSpace built-in function, which is, to put it mildly, bad for anything that requires stepped grading and commentary. Luckily, some commercial solutions exist, and many classes in S.T.E.M. subjects are utilizing them. It is impressive to see classes quickly learning to use these new tools.
Overall, I think COVID-19 has forced innovation and exploration on the individual level, and remote learning will be a good thing in the long run. We are prepared to find a new way of living and learning with more resilience.
– Jerry Ling
Hitherto, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has already surpassed 2 million in America, which represents over a quarter of the known cases in the world. As the most powerful country with access to some of the best medical care and most advanced technologies, it is worth considering why there are a rising number of cases in the U.S. because this pandemic affects not only the overall economy of the nation, but also every one of us.
I appreciate that UCSB had changed its teaching mode to online before the coronavirus was widely spread. With this opportunity, I have returned to my home country, where the situation is mostly under control. Thanks to my professors, I do not have to stay up late to participate in live meetings because of my current time zone. In hindsight, I believe that although remote learning does have its deficiencies, it is undoubtedly an effective measure under these unusual circumstances.
In hindsight, I believe that although remote learning does have its deficiencies, it is undoubtedly an effective measure under these unusual circumstances.
We have been successful in keeping our classes up and running by leveraging our technology. Besides some of the negative experiences that remote learning may bring us, I think that it can also benefit us in many ways. For example, students save time they would normally spend commuting, therefore freeing up more time for focusing on their studies. They are also able to watch the recorded lectures repeatedly to strengthen any points in their classes they do not understand. Although we have had to abandon face-to-face conversations, I think this is an acceptable change. Nothing is more important than our collective safety. Turning to the discussion on online examinations, I do want to stress that teachers should be more flexible and considerate with students. We are all uneasy because of the current circumstances.
From my point of view, remote lecturing has been quite successful at UCSB. However, I am suspicious about the assertion that students can return to the campus in September. Although I have complete faith in UCSB’s resilience, I believe it is too early to make decisions. The situation seems to be persistent and since this type of lecturing is working, I think we should continue to learn online in the fall.
– Robert Chen
To avoid problems like Internet connectivity and time zone differences, I chose to remain in Santa Barbara during this period of remote learning. I was pretty optimistic about the epidemic at the time, and I thought that the situation would surely improve before summer vacation. So, I rented a house with my friend in Goleta and was ready to get used to this new learning method.
However, spring quarter did not proceed as successfully as I anticipated. As a pre-chem student, I had to take two labs this quarter. It was very inconvenient to conduct both of the lab courses in an online format. Students had no access to manipulate data and make measurements by ourselves. Although TAs would record experiment videos for us, the experiments were not conducted by our own hands, and there were always some problems that we could not understand. We had to repeatedly stop and ask questions when finishing our lab reports, which was time-consuming. In addition, the lab manuals were partly revised because of the online learning. In one class, we needed to spend an extra two to three hours to complete each lab report. It seemed we did not truly grasp the knowledge we needed to learn in labs, and we wasted a lot of time.
I hope that my flight in June will not be cancelled and that I will be able to get back to my family.
I did see some positive results from online learning. Many of my courses were recorded. This meant that I could choose when to study according to my habits. I did not have to get up early to catch the bus to campus and have to feel tired. I obtained a lot more sleep than I usually have and was more energetic when studying. In this way, online learning was helpful; however, I found I was not disciplined at home without a structured campus schedule. It was hard to be persistent with online learning.
The COVID-19 virus outbreak turned out to be much worse than I expected. I hope that our in-person interactions will return as soon as possible. My roommate got a flight to return home two weeks ago, so I am the only one left in the house. The air tickets are very expensive and difficult to purchase now. I hope that my flight in June will not be cancelled and that I will be able to get back to my family.
– Candace Chen