The global pandemic we face today has, without a doubt, had an impact on every single one of our lives. Besides the fact that COVID-19 challenges us socially and economically, the virus has also interfered with academics. And so, one week before I was supposed to follow through with the study that is part of my senior project, all my plans were turned upside down.
To set the scene: I am major of Cognitive Science and Psychology, currently in my sixth semester. My senior project is a study on the topic of instructional design, and the impacts this can have on student learning. In the first months of the semester I developed a theoretical framework, made contact with a local elementary school, conducted interviews with principals and teachers, and created instructional material to be tested. This material was to be given to third graders as a learning intervention, and I had even set a date for both the pilot and actual study. One week before data collection however, it was announced that not only UCR, but elementary schools all over the country would be closing. You can imagine my dismay. At this point, there were several options- I could turn my practical study into a theoretical one or I could try to find another school with older students to test, albeit online. I chose to go for the second option. I got in contact with a middle school I knew had already been practicing online learning, and explained the situation… The director of the school was very welcoming to the idea, but given the extraordinary situation asked me for some time to make the decision whether his school would be able to participate in my study.
One week passed, then another one. I was getting nervous. Then I received an email: given the difficult situation of online learning, and the many challenges that our teachers face at the moment, it won’t be possible for our school to participate in your study. We wish you the best in your academic endeavors. This of course is a paragraphed, but you get the gist. Now I was really getting nervous. I had to make a quick decision, and chose to make a final change from middle school students to university students. I did more research, adjusted my learning materials a second time and made an online survey that I shared on Facebook.
And again, I came to be disappointed. The first day I received little responses, the second day didn’t start off much better. I had a mere 6 participants and needed a total of 60. So much work, so many challenges- and not many seemed to be interested in helping me. It was at this point that everything changed (dramatic, I know). I contacted some friends of mine, asked them for help and all of a sudden I was getting responses. My Facebook post was shared a total of 28 times…not sure whether this is a big number to anyone, but to me it definitely is. My friends, fellow students, strangers- everybody was helping me out by sharing and completing my survey. I had students from universities I have never heard of, participants of every possibly nationality. My running group in Sydney gave me support, teachers and parents shared the survey to their students and their children, UCR students, some of whom I have never seen before, took the time out of their day to complete this survey. I got a total of almost 80 participants within the course of one week, and was not only relieved but also baffled. While it may seem a small achievement, getting 80 people to donate a half hour out of their day, many of them without even knowing me personally, is something I appreciate very much. That’s a total 2400 minutes of time, given to me by fellow students, friends, strangers, without anything in return.
My senior project may have had its ups and downs, but in the end I came to realize, that while COVID-19 without a doubt has put strain and challenges upon us, it has also allowed us to grow as people, to be creative, to be kind and to help those in need, however big or small the favor may be. And this, I have discovered, is the beauty of community.