Dr. Soledad Santos
And we faced the unknown… I remember the moment after receiving the news that “we will go online”, I entered my office thinking: How am I going to do this? How I am going to be able to meet with my students? how can we meet our learning objectives without the possibility of sharing classes together?
And then, I started working, thinking, re-organizing, re-designing…. That’s when I realized that this particular situation, the pandemic that we have to face and the preventive and protective measures that were implemented, were both a big challenge and a possibility for us all to be creative and innovative. Embracing this perspective turned this situation into a learning experience for me. Because I had to learn a lot: about communication platforms, online environments, new online tools, etc. I know that as a psychologist I was trained in interpersonal interactions, but this kind of scenarios were a whole new world.
And from one day to the other I was zooming, working online together with colleagues and students.
I discovered that this was actually a powerful tool, because it doesn’t only allow me to meet my students for our regular lectures, but I could also have individual meetings – from my now called ‘home office’ – seeing how they are experiencing and adapting to this new format, and having interesting academic conversations during feedback sessions or oral exams.
Our class-sessions became a meeting-point of students from all over the world: from Belgium to the U.S., Germany, Panama, Spain or the Netherlands. And instead of sharing the physical space of our class-room we are willing to share time together, when sometimes our afternoon gets mixed with a morning on the other side of the ocean.
In the meantime, we all survived our first week of online learning. It wasn’t without challenges, that’s for sure… long hours of preparation and sometimes with an overwhelming stream of information, sent and received, links to zoom invitations coming in and out…
But here we are, “we went online” and now that everything is slowly getting on track, I can start appreciating the opportunities that it brings and enjoy the ride.
This was my first week, just the beginning, a lot of things must still be done but it looks like we are overcoming “social distancing” in a very connected way.
Personally, I have always been able to work at home just fine. Only this semester did I discover the thrill of studying in the library or during visits to Elliott. Sadly, this taste of heaven was short-lived: COVID-19 broke out, and we went online.
There are some downsides to the digitalization, of course. First of all, having class online gives you more of a chance to doze off. Some students don’t even have cameras on, remaining mute and invisible and leaving their fellow students wondering if they’ve just gone back to bed. Secondly, the distractions are infuriating. You sit there at your cluttered desk with your cup of tea and breakfast and your mind automatically goes, “party time!”
For me, the distractions have been external, too: these two kids keep doing daily tricks on their scooters outside my dorm and knocking on my window, waving. They make quite the racket. Somehow, though, it’s nice to have some company – even if it’s from a band of annoying ten-year-olds.
And overall, online classes have not been all too bad at all. It’s not the same as real class, of course, but it is a great alternative. We still learn the same things and have a chance to graduate in the same subjects, and you learn to cope, too: During my first take-home exam, I made sure to pile all the trash cluttered around my desk into one pile of retired distractions behind my laptop screen, out of sight and (mostly) out of mind.
Really, if we stay positive about the situation, things aren’t so bad: we can wear pyjama pants while in class; we don’t have to keep in raging coughs in a silent classroom; and with all extracurriculars and parties cancelled, there is so much more time to study. Plus – and this one’s a real mind-boggler – we won’t be infected!
This has definitely been a difficult time for all of us here at UCR. It’s been challenging, strange, and all together a really odd time. It is all of our responsibility to stay home and limit our physical interactions with others. It’s all we can do, and I know I am perfectly willing to do whatever it takes to slow the spread of this virus. Adjusting to the new situation of online classes is a challenge for students and professors alike. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had professors struggling to work out using Zoom. So many moments of “your mic is off” and “you need to click the bottom right…” But also so many moments of kindness, of accommodation, and of understanding. Having our professors be so empathetic has helped enormously to adjust to this situation. Personally I’ve been struggling when I see my friends on the screen in front of me who I haven’t seen in weeks and I can’t chat or catch up with them. I can’t say it any other way- this is a weird situation we’re all in. And like many other students and professors here, I’m trying to make the best of it.
During the break I took on the job of cleaning up my room and preparing for online classes. Anyone who knows me knows that my room was nowhere near ready to be a calm, organized study zone. So I did a stir crazy fueled cleaning frenzy. I reorganized my things and made a nice coffee station on my windowsill. I made a snack collection next to my desk and cleaned up all my supplies. Even though I can’t enjoy a break to chat with my classmates, I get to come down between classes and have a coffee with my housemates. After I’m all done for the day, I go down and have a few drinks, and play some of our board games (our monopoly games are legendary). There’s no better people I’d rather be quarantined with.