Students discuss acclimating to first week of online courses

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The first week of a fully online quarter started at UC Riverside on Monday, March 30, and students are already experiencing the difficulty of adapting to the new format of classes, struggling to focus on coursework amid a pandemic and dealing with expected and unforeseen technological issues.

UCR officially announced the transition to online classes for the entirety of spring quarter on March 14, which gave faculty less than a month to modify their syllabi for an online course and decide whether they would hold live lectures on Zoom, a videoconferencing service, or record and share PowerPoint presentations. “For the most part all of my professors and TAs have been very prepared and it’s obvious they still intend to provide a quality education even though we are limited to online classes,” said Julian Brambila, a third-year public policy major. 

Blythe Reyes, a third-year liberal studies major had a similar experience, stating that although most of her professors were prepared, “Two of them were still trying to figure things out last minute.” She added, “My Econ & English professor hate the format but are trying their best to communicate with students.”

In addition to having to experience the expected issues with professors who may not be tech savvy, students have also had to deal with an unforeseen problem: “Zoombombing.” Brambila stated that a student was dropped from one of his courses after being disruptive, “asking obnoxious questions” and attempting to conceal their display name. Other disruptions are far less malicious. Reyes said, “My English professor had his daughter walk in on his Zoom meeting.”

Like faculty, students had to adapt just as quickly into the new online format. Mark De Alba, a second-year political science major, said that like TAs and professors, he was trying to get accustomed to the new learning style and did not feel prepared yet. “Education is not the same online as it is in person but as students and faculty, we have to be positive and work with the tools at our disposal,” he stated. He added that he was sure that despite the “unquestionable difficulty” of online courses, UCR students would be able to overcome this challenge.

Brambila stated that he was as optimistic about the upcoming quarter, although he wasn’t sure how well he would do academically. “My whole family is home at the moment so it gets loud,” he said. Reyes agreed: “I’m currently working full-time and luckily my job allows me to work on school related things … The bad thing about it is that it’s so loud at my place of work and I can’t hear nor concentrate sometimes during my Zoom calls.” 

Certain student populations have also had to adapt in different ways; the Student Disability Resource Center, for example, has altered their registration process so that it can be done remotely. Vice President of the Student Disability Union Alex Chen stated, “I can easily opt-in to certain accommodations for certain classes via online.” In an interview with The Highlander about the type of university support being offered to students with disabilities specifically, Chen said, “My accommodations were implemented fine last quarter … that experience has not been too difficult so far.”

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