Online instruction poses challenges for dance, STEM and theater, fine art and digital production students

Courtesy of UCR’s Department of Biochemistry

The first week of remote learning has begun at UC Riverside, and with it, students have had to adapt to the transition from in-person instruction to online classes. Students with majors that focus on hands-on learning like art, dance, theater or courses with labs have faced different challenges than students whose majors may lack a focus on practical instruction.  

Mayra Gomez-Labrada, a second-year theater, fine art and digital production major, stated that she does not feel professors are prepared, as they had a limited time to convert classes to an online format. As a theater major, the experience of taking an online class depends on the course. “I’m currently taking Women in Theatre and the class requires a lot of play-analysis and discussions, so it’s hard at times when multiple people are speaking over each other trying to explain something — it definitely requires patience on all parts,” Labrada wrote in an email interview with The Highlander.

Students in colleges like CNAS, in which labs are critical to supplement lectures, have had to adapt as well. Gisela Vasquez, a third-year cell, molecular and developmental biology major, stated that sacrificing labs was necessary to keep students safe. However, she added that, “The practical and hands-on portion of labs are now lost for students. Part of my major relay on understanding how-to carry-on reactions and practicing how to handle lab equipment. It is a skill that requires practice in an actual lab. Now we are relying on dry-labs but it is only conceptual knowledge rather than practical.”

A fourth-year environmental sciences major, Timothy Hughes felt similarly about the change. He said, “It is pretty weird. We do a lot of field work and field trips for labs and we can no longer do that. Science lab TAs have to film the procedure and explain it while it happens which can be confusing, and they often have to correct themselves and seem distracted from lecturing by the procedure.” Subsequently, professors have adapted their exams, stated Hughes. “There are all open-book exams which would never be seen in an in-person science class in a million years.”

Edward Legaspi, a third-year business major and dance minor, expressed the same disappointment and challenges in his dance courses. He stated, “Taking away the spatial awareness of other bodies in the space aspect from my dance classes has been difficult because it is obviously a big part of dance.” He added that “having to move in front of a screen” instead of performing in front of an actual group will be a challenge. 

Students who rely on practical instruction are dealing with the same worries about the upcoming quarter in addition to dealing with these unique challenges. Legaspi stated that it was difficult to concentrate on coursework in a loud home, while Hughes recognized how difficult it is to stay motivated and focused while facing a reduced income and little face-to-face interaction. Vasquez said, “It is too soon to say if it is going to be difficult to succeed … I do know it will be a bigger challenge … But I hope that in a couple of weeks we all feel more comfortable with the format.”

Editor’s Note: Timothy Hughes is a staff writer for The Highlander. 

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