Davidson's Take on "Online Learning"
“If there were any two semesters I wouldn’t want cut short, it’d definitely be my first and my last.”
That was the line I gave to every friend, family member, or anyone else who asked me how I felt about this whole situation. Davidson has always been a unique place to study at – through all of the ups and downs, I’ve always been reminded that the strength of a small liberal arts school was in the face-to-face interactions and small classes. On Zoom, most of this has been taken away or limited in some fashion. Evidently, the transition to online classes has been interesting, to say the least.
This semester, my senior spring, was supposed to be one of completion, celebration, and a last chance to spend time with those who made my Davidson experience. I’ve always enjoyed my math classes – in spite of the long lectures, they were always engaging. And for the first time in four years, I can say that my two math classes – Cryptology and Graph Theory – are both intriguing and enjoyable!
So, let me tell you how it all went:
Given that my two math classes are lectures, those haven’t changed much. But it’s the extras that make a class unique, i.e. how the professor interacts and gauges the students’ understanding. With half the class muting their video (admittedly, myself included), this becomes much more difficult. Also since my professors began recording their lectures for reference later, there is no longer a necessity for “logging on” to class. However, oddly enough, through our collaborative assignments, a faint sense of community has been preserved. I must say, going through 24 hours without talking to a single person outside of your MAT325 class is a weird feeling.
I also had a weekly, three-hour seminar, “Theory and Practice of Literary Translation.” For some reason, in quarantine, though I had nothing (and I mean nothing) else to do, it would still be difficult to focus on a screen for three hours. Our professors decided to shorten the class meetings by 1-1.5 hours, and we spent a lot more time working individually on our projects than in class discussions.
Perhaps the most difficult thing to transition was working on my thesis. I had just presented my first full draft of it when we went online, so it was a little frustrating to lose all of that momentum. Fortunately, my thesis advisors were amazing, giving me the time and space to work individually when needed, and calling a meeting when they could sense something more was needed. My thesis defense also worked well: it was an hour long, and everything went successfully according to plan. I had been mainly accessing my resources online or through purchased books already, so not being able to access the school’s library didn’t really change much. Though Davidson has been very helpful in that regard, scanning pages and books for students needing them.
I’m honestly grateful for all of the resources Davidson has (or tried to) provide in this time of online learning. As a tutor myself, I understand that though I may have made the transition somewhat smoothly, there are many students who are struggling. We’ve been offered the option to “pass/fail” our classes at the end of this semester, which I believe will be a great help in balancing these issues. Davidson’s dedication to teaching has always been a guiding principle in its response, and I feel this has helped us tremendously.