In such an unpredictable past few semesters, Arcadia has really embraced adaptability. We’ve had seamless transitions to online learning—then back again to in-person learning.
In my experience, online learning was just as effective as a pre-pandemic semester thanks to my professors’ dedication to keeping class lectures and discussions as normal as possible. All of my courses met regularly online just as we would have in the classroom. And Zoom office hours meant I could still talk with professors when I had questions or needed help.
In these semesters, both the faculty and the students have learned to be more flexible. Sometimes things go wrong, like the world closes up or your internet goes out, but that’s where adaptability comes in. We’ve all managed to make things work by troubleshooting together.
I wasn’t sure about how some classes might function in a Zoom room. For example, I was taking a Psychology class in the Fall 2020 semester that included lab hours. Obviously we weren’t allowed on campus to get into the rat lab. But Dr. Fields made sure that our experience was as close to a typical semester as possible. With live cameras and demonstrations, we were able to observe and report on experiments. We may not have had one-on-one interaction with the rats (a concept that makes a few of my friends shiver), but we could still absorb and understand the material of the course. I felt engaged in the course, and didn’t feel like I was missing too much in this unusual setting.As much as I’m grateful to be attending class in person again, we haven’t completely left those online options behind. If anything, I think this has made classes and club meetings even more accessible. For example, in my Writing for Children class we have a few students who have remained online. With cameras, speakers, and a monitor in each classroom, those students are able to participate in class as if they were sitting at the next desk.
Clubs have also kept Zoom around for the students who need it. For Sigma Tau Delta’s first meeting of the year, we used Zoom so that some students who couldn’t be on campus could still attend the meeting. One student was even able to attend while waiting for a flight back to Philadelphia.
There have been a few occasions when individual students have requested to attend an in-person class via Zoom for one reason or another. For example, my professors gave me permission to attend remotely one day when I was home feeling sick. I was still able to participate in class instead of being completely absent and having to make up for a missed lecture. I’ve also had a professor who moved class only for one session with a similar situation. Although we weren’t sitting together in the room as we usually do, we still had a productive and lively class discussion. This is what I mean when I say flexibility: it isn’t a “no options” situation; there’s room for accommodation based on needs.
Although the pandemic affected my college experience and classroom learning, I still feel as though I’ve had a college experience, and not just some weird gap year. Faculty and students were able to make the best of an unprecedented time and come out of it stronger than before.