Stray candy wrappers, strewn papers, and old textbooks. My messy desk, the one that has barely been used since high school, has now become my classroom. Though the transition to online learning is necessary, it has created new challenges for students not used to the system.
When I said my last goodbyes to friends before spring break, I had no idea that I would not be seeing them again for months. Finding out that I would not be returning to Miami and the Herbert School was heartbreaking. I had finally found my footing and was excited to finish out the semester on a high note. Why now? Why this?
ADAPTING TO THE STUDENTS
Though some professors could continue online classes similarly to how they taught in person, this was not possible for every class. For Chinese, our in-person classes were always very conversation-based. After we left campus, my Chinese professor started off posting recorded lectures and having us fill out a form to prove we watched it. We would ask and answer questions in Chinese with each other and the teacher. She saw how our language abilities were being impaired by the lack of conversational practice and decided to make a switch. We started to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra’s breakout groups feature to practice speaking with each other in small groups. I slowly began to notice my listening comprehension and pronunciation skills improving once again with this method.
Additionally, my business law professor actually adapted his testing practices to the new situation. Our tests were comprised of using the legal principles we have studied to determine the outcome of a case presented. Normally, we cannot use our notes during the test. However, he switched to an open note testing method after moving online. He then increased the difficulty of the questions to push us to think deeper about the scenarios being presented.
For example, one of our units focused on what types of contracts have to be in writing to be legally enforceable. Pre-pandemic, we may have simply been presented with a black-and-white scenario, where there either is or is not a writing present. On the test, though, we had to closely analyze the “writing” to determine if it contained the elements necessary to be considered valid. This change forced us to focus less on memorization and more on fully understanding the subject matter.
CONNECTING THROUGH TECH
The toughest part of taking classes online for me has been the loss of collaboration between students. Herbert really emphasizes group work since knowing how to work in a team is necessary in the business world. Right after we began learning online, we were assigned a group project in my Business Analytics class. We had to use the program Tableau to visually represent Excel data, with each of us creating graphs and presenting a slideshow to the class on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Many of the groups were made up of people who had no relationship with each other outside of the class. Missing that in-person class time made completing the project that much more difficult. We all had to learn how to better communicate with one another using text, email, and Zoom to coordinate.
One way we worked well together was by creating a group chat and regularly updating each other on our progress there. When making our graphs, we would send them in the group to check each other’s work. This also helped ensure we did not have any accidental overlap in our work. The project also required us to prerecord each of our presentation segments. We were able to make our separate segments into a smooth presentation by sending our practice runs in the group chat. This allowed us to tell a cohesive narrative with our data. Our ability to communicate effectively helped us maintain strong teamwork in this new environment.
Students are not only having to take classes online, but also find jobs and internships remotely. My original summer plan was to work as a marketing intern for a gift card and store credit solutions startup in Tel Aviv. Now, I am unsure of what my summer will look like. Learning how to network and interview remotely are skills already important to master in the digital age. The pandemic has just forced them to be practiced much more than anyone anticipated.
ZOOM AND DOOM
One particular skill I have developed recently is presenting myself professionally in Zoom interviews. This is a critical skill to master right now as many companies forego the hassle of in-person interviews for the convenience of online ones. I have been part of a couple of remote interviews and have found the difference quite challenging. Through Zoom, I could not read the interviewer’s body language or sense their energy, which initially threw me off. I have had to learn how to become more confident in myself as a candidate and rely less on affirmative cues from the interviewer.
Though having to leave my school, quarantine away from all of my hometown friends, and move my entire life online has been taxing, it has also been rewarding. Learning how to adapt to change and persevere during this trying time has given me the opportunity to grow. I have become a better communicator not just in a professional context but also in my personal life. Now that I am physically separated from all of my friends, I have focused a lot on maintaining those relationships in other ways. Checking in through regular texts and FaceTime calls has become our primary communication. With my hometown friends, parking our cars next to each other and talking through our windows so we can social distance has become the norm.
This spring, I conquered all of the challenges thrown my way and figured out how to be productive with my time even though it feels easy to be idle. Still, I cannot wait until the time this situation settles and I can be reunited with my Miami family.
My name is Mikaela Sanders and I am a freshman studying at the University of Miami’s Business School. I am majoring in Marketing but am also interested in double minoring in Advertising and Chinese. When I am not studying, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, bingeing The Office on Netflix, and working on my YouTube channel.
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