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Zoom-ing through class: student’s first week of spring quarter

An illustration of students using Zoom
Western students transitioned to online learning last week, which can rely heavily on the use of Zoom. // Illustration by Rachel Alexander

Western students struggle with online-only classes

By Mazey Servin

Kyle Venooker, sat at his computer ready for his first Zoom class. Instead, he ended up spending 45 minutes of class time trying to figure out which login and password to use. 
“[It] was very nerve-wracking,” Venooker said.
Venooker, a second-year English literature major at Western Washington University, was not excited for the abrupting transition to online class this spring quarter.
On March 19, Western sent out an email stating that spring quarter will be held remotely until June 12 due to COVID-19. All in-person classes have been canceled in Washington state, and Western’s classes will remain online until fall 2020, according to a Western advisory email on April 10.
Students have had to transition to a digital learning environment that can either be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous classes are virtually face-to-face through video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts; asynchronous classes typically have no scheduled virtual meetings and allow students to work on their own schedules. 
“I think the best online courses are the ones that are very intentional and especially when professors have experienced doing them before,” said Venoooker.
Venoooker said being forced into online classes seems to be a bit tricky for everyone.
“I think some professors are adjusting to it really well and some are unfamiliar with the technology and are going to take a little bit more time to catch up.”
Koby Okezie, a second-year political science pre-major and a student senator at Western, said he’s seen teachers struggle with Canvas, or refuse to use it at all, instead communicating through email.
“I have really severe ADHD,” Okezie said. “… I was struggling a lot even with in-person classes, but I was really ready to go back to classes with this new medication that I was on.”  
Okezie said it’s been hard to adjust, but other students say that the transition has gone as well as it could.
“While it may be tempting to focus on the fact that our experience this quarter is not what we thought it was going to be…It’s important to recognize those strides that they’re making ‘cause they’re doing the best they can,” Venooker said.
Kaitlyn Davidson, a second-year economics major and student senator, said teachers have been adapting quickly to the transition to an online teaching environment. 
“I know Zoom is not the easiest format and Canvas itself is super tricky, so I really appreciate that,” Davidson said.

A student works on a laptop for virtual classes
Kaitlyn Davidson sits outside while doing class and homework in an online learning environment. // Photo by Mazey Servin

Brent Carbajal, Western’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said: “Students and faculty alike seem to be working together to make this period of remote instruction the most effective and productive that it can be, emphasizing essential learning outcomes for the courses.”
Although, some students appreciate the transition that professors and staff have gone through to make this quarter happen, some are still struggling to adapt to the learning environment.
Hannah Ambrose, a third-year biochemistry major, has been taking an organic chemistry lab in which an instructor demonstrates an experiment on video.
“I wasn’t sure how that was gonna work and it’s just a little odd,” Ambrose said.“Basically she just films it like a YouTube video of herself doing experiments and we watch them together on Zoom and talk about it. … I wish I could touch the glassware and stuff myself, but apparently it’s not that much different.”
Ambrose said it was hard for her to decide where to stay to complete the quarter in quarantine. 
“It just feels like a lot of things are being thrown last minute and everything could be handled a lot better,” Ambrose said.

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