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Virtual Term, Take 2

Andriana talks about her virtual fall term, and how it compares to previous trimesters!

Andriana talks about her virtual fall term, and how it compares to previous trimesters!

Hi everyone!

Last week, I wrote about my summer and my decision to stay remote for fall term. Now, three weeks in to the term, I have decided it is a good time to write about how I am adjusting to being online once again.

First, each class I am taking is fully online. Currently Carleton’s classes are either fully online, fully face-to-face, or a mix between the two.

This term I am taking three classes: Latinx Voices in the Age of Trump, Culture and Politics in India, and Intro to Linguistics. So far, I have really enjoyed each of these courses!

Andriana's books
This term’s additions to my bookshelf!

While last term had a big learning curve due to the adjustment to the online format, this term is going much more smoothly. The three classes are approaching the online format similarly, which helps. Each one has synchronous Zoom meetings, which take place during the entire time slot (about an hour or two in length). These meetings are a mix of lecture, class discussions, and small group discussions. During class, the professors frequently take advantage of tools such as screen sharing and breakout rooms.

Thankfully, many of the issues during spring term have been addressed, so that we are back to a more normal learning environment. I am lucky to be in discussion-based classes that convert relatively easily to an online format. Also, all my classes have fewer than 30 students, with the smallest having only eight. This makes discussion much easier, especially considering the challenges created by Zoom.

Of course, the online learning experience is not the same as it was in-person. I will list two ways that classes have changed, and then two ways that they have stayed the same.

The changes:

1. Technical Difficulties

Technical difficulties still occur periodically, though many of the problems with online learning have greatly improved. Sometimes, these issues are a result of my own technology. For example, I work from my bedroom because my parents are also working from home at the moment. My bedroom, however, does not always have a strong WiFi connection. Because of this, I sometimes freeze during class or get kicked out of Zoom meetings, which is very frustrating.

Other issues are often a result of continuing to learn about the relatively new programs we’re using. While I have been working with Zoom for months now, there are aspects that I am still navigating. Luckily, everyone is in the same boat, and we are giving each other patience and space to learn.

2. Projects

Because my classes are not meeting in-person, some of the project formats have changed. For example, most of my classes have assigned presentations. These, however, are not possible right now (at least not in the traditional way). As a result, they have been substituted with alternatives, especially since we have a better understanding of the technology now. The first of these alternative projects is due this week for me. It is a Zoom presentation, for which my group will have a recorded discussion that we will share with the class.

The similarities:

1. Homework

Unlike projects, homework assignments have generally stayed the same. When I had in-person classes, homework primarily consisted of readings and online discussion posts. For the most part, this has not changed, with readings and occasional written assignments comprising typical daily assignments.

Last term, I found that many classes relied more heavily on Carleton’s discussion forum (Moodle) than usual. Because Zoom was so new and professors had to convert their courses to the online format so quickly, Moodle was sometimes used as more of a substitute than a supplement. This was challenging for me, because I don’t learn as well that way. The synchronous meetings and discussions really make me feel more connected to my professor and classmates. Because of this, I am glad to be using Zoom more than Moodle this term.

2. Professors

Despite the chaos during spring term and the frustration of still being online now, professors have not wavered in their dedication to their students. In fact, Carleton’s response to this ordeal has proven just how dedicated the entire community is to the academic experience. Colleges and professors have had to work extremely hard and make tough decisions in the past months, and I am so grateful to have such a wonderful group of people advocating for Carleton students.

Most importantly, professors have made themselves available to their students. They have continued to be accessible as if we were learning on campus, holding virtual office hours and consistently offering academic and emotional support for students. Ultimately, the academic environment was one of the main reasons I chose Carleton. This experience has shown what an excellent choice it was.

Thank you everyone! I hope you all have a good rest of your week.


Andriana is a sophomore at Carleton, where she plans to major in English and double minor in Creative Writing and Cross-Cultural Studies. Although she will be spending this fall at home in Richmond, VA, Andriana is already excited to return to Carleton and escape the southern heat. When she isn’t busy avoiding Virginia’s never-ending summer, you can find Andriana binge-reading, playing music, or watching a favorite movie or show for the umpteenth time. Meet the other bloggers!