Written in collaboration with Mika Parekh.
As most of you finish the last few months of remote learning for the semester, there are many questions about what to expect moving forward. We know many students feel they are not obtaining the same value from online learning as they would from in-person and on-campus university experiences. Some of you may be losing interest in your coursework and considering a gap year.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of adapting effectively to new conditions, and as professors are learning and deploying new online teaching methods, they expect students to do the same. We urge you not to assume loosening of grades or delays in submitting assignments as a default, unless there is a valid reason and your professors have been informed in due time where possible.
Furthermore, our advice is only to consider a gap year if you are involved in an innovative online project or internship that will make a meaningful impact on your community or discipline during these challenging times. Unfortunately, a gap year without sufficient reason may reflect an inability to adapt to uncertain times, a trait that may be viewed negatively by future employers. Instead, we recommend taking fewer credits, or those required but less academically-demanding classes to ease your transition to distance learning — leaving more challenging courses for when you are back on campus. If you are looking to graduate within the next two years, it is also important to plan your semester accordingly and discuss your progression and major requirements with your university advisor.
Parents and students questioning unchanged tuition fees when online learning seems more affordable should consider that most colleges are also working to upgrade their technology and online platforms, to increase digital security and offer better audio and video capabilities for their students. While the operational costs for online learning in class may be lower, there may be additional charges involved in developing and delivering classes on an exclusive online platform.
Additionally, there may also be changes in how courses are prioritized — lecture-based introductory-level courses, for example, may be preferentially offered over more complex courses. Classes may also transition into “flipped classroom” structures, where students listen to pre-recorded lectures from professors in their own time and complete assignments with support from teaching assistants. As a result, Universities would ensure students receive more one-to-one support through smaller classes and longer office hours. We urge students to take advantage of these additional resources to grasp a strong understanding of course material, keeping in mind that the nature of assessments may emphasize problem-solving over theoretical knowledge.
As we look towards the summer, some of you may have committed to internships that have now been canceled. We recommend reaching out to your internships with the prospect of working remotely or with a request to intern during the next Spring semester instead. Otherwise identify other opportunities for virtual internships on job platforms such as LinkedIn/ GitHub, or via your professional network.
You could also reach out to departments offering summer courses at your university and assist in running virtual classes, or reach out to your college professors to explore the possibility of working on a research project. If these options are unavailable to you, consider online courses to learn new skills, obtain new proficiencies, and/ or master new languages.
Importantly, it is understandable if you are not able to maintain a routine of high-productivity due to additional family responsibilities, financial burdens, or emotional struggles during these unprecedented difficult times. Taking care of yourself and your loved ones must always be your first priority.
If you would like to discuss your plans for the summer and upcoming semester, we are here to assist you. Find out more at our website, and get in touch. Stay well and stay safe.