By Oxana Filichkina
Collaborator to The Guardsman
Remote instruction has created positive and negative views amongst City College students and professors.
I share some of their concerns about less personal contact and less physical activity in general. We need to admit remote learning is the best gift of the pandemic-era from the perspective of students. It teaches each student personal responsibility for their progress. No sugar-coating, just plain facts: now you are going to have a flexible schedule and no commute time. No need to spend dollars on picking up lunch on the way, getting a Clipper card, or acquiring the parking permit with long hours buzzing around in attempts to find a spot. It makes education available all over the world! In addition, remote instruction makes education an option for students of all professions and backgrounds: working people, feeding moms, young parents, retired people, disabled, etc.
Personally, being seven months pregnant and having a nomadic life since we are in the process of buying and repairing a new home, I would never ever have made it through 16 units in City College if not for remote studies.
During remote instruction students don’t have to focus on learning something by heart, instead, they practice implementing the knowledge on real projects. Students have been doing many creative tasks and completing projects on their own while wasting no time chatting randomly with other students. Yes, there is a trade-off, students will not find as many friends from remote semesters as they would have gained offline. However, someone with personal obstacles like taking care of kids wouldn’t be able to do anything offline. In comparison, they gain from remote instruction.
On Canvas, the students get recommendations and links to the most relevant videos and sources all over the world instead of just professors’ lectures plus one to two recommended textbooks.
Still, one gets a lot of personal touch from the group and the instructors, written feedback for most tasks, and Zoom-meetings twice per week.
Isn’t that awesome?
From my personal perspective as a student who has taken 1.5 semesters offline and 2.5 semesters online since the beginning of the stay-at-home order in March 2020, there are many advantages to studying online.
From the perspective of a middle-aged student, possibly a career changer or a person trying to study while having other duties and obligations like part-time work, parental duties, etc. to study online or remote in CCSF could be a life-time opportunity.
Study time is much more concentrated now: most of the materials are amazingly located in one place in Canvas. Don’t seek to make a printout or find the link for a recommended resource. Assignments and grades are transparent on Canvas as well. Fourth, get to work in a more independent way. Plan when and how to manage the assignments. Feel free to skip some parts of the modules or to study extra on the more interesting topics. Make priorities on how to distribute the available time.
Students would lack the social and even entertaining parts of college life which might be crucial for students in their 20s. Communications with group mates are limited, with fewer chances to make good friends. Students don’t get to the collegial sports teams or excellent sports facilities including the swimming pool or tennis courts. However, students can still get remote tennis instruction and a chance to improve basic theoretical knowledge which will help students progress much faster on the court when it’s possible.
Some courses like the video production with hands-on professional equipment (i.e. DSLR cameras) will not let a student experience something like buzzing around the Ocean campus shooting each one’s video project in a mini-group. Now, in the spring, there exist some alternatives to that. One example is an audio production course where students work with the audio editing program Pro Tools via remote access to the college computers (Splashtop). Everyone uses their own headphones and students study the audio equipment via pictures from the internet. Overall, assertive students are getting through and will get strong theoretical knowledge at the exit.
You might ask why it is different from self-study using good online resources like Udemy, Edx.com, or Linda? Or just reading books and watching YouTube videos? For many people the difference is enormous. You have been assigned to a real teacher who is an expert and available for you anytime, without a line like it was during on-campus days. Professors guide us through millions and millions of sources of information and made available online. During any course of City College in one semester, with the guidance of a professor, a student accomplishes a few individual projects. For your tasks with weekly deadlines, you have grades and personal feedback from the professor. Based on the grades for the assignments, there is a transparent system of evaluation of knowledge. In the end, you can earn a professional certificate or a degree to transfer to a university.
Online and remote instruction gives more time to contemplate the new information, some students feel they digest it deeper.
Remote instruction has challenged City College professors to put the course online in the digital format of Canvas. Also for the majority of Zoom sessions, students are muted most of the time and stopped showing their faces. Psychologically, it can be uncomfortable, especially if the professors are used to visualizing the progress students are making during their class.
Like any new cool tool or device, it takes time to adjust to the new normal way of learning and socializing via Zoom. It is important to arrange gadget detox breaks in your schedule, the more frequently the better. If you are a typical American and are watching TV or surfing the Internet in your spare time, you might acquire headaches from too much screen time. The best idea is to go for a short walk break time.
Another essential piece of advice I can give is to not to get defeated fast by a hard task, instead, try to reach out to groupmates via Pronto or your professor by a message in Canvas or in-person meeting during his/her office hours.
We are just at the beginning of that journey, and it promises a few new overwhelming horizons…