“I think it will take a bit of time to get back on track:” Second year students switch to in-person learning after a virtual year

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For the first time in 18 months, Cal Poly welcomed its population of approximately 21,000 students to campus this year for in-person classes. For many students, especially sophomores, this has been an adjustment.

Students can attend classes with their peers and teachers face-to-face as long as each student is vaccinated or undergoes regular COVID-19 tests, completes the COVID self-test with a green campus pass, and wears a mask. in class.

For first-year students, ignorance of college courses is typical. However, for many sophomores, with a year of Cal Poly virtual classes already under their belt, the transition to in-person classes is just as unusual.

This year, many second-year students are having their first tangible college experience.

“It was a little overwhelming and it was kind of like when you’re a freshman in high school and everyone knows where they’re going and there are so many people and you think everyone is older than you, ”said Ilana Tenberg, a second-year industrial technology and packaging student. .

Tenberg speaks in public (COMS 101) and the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (ITP 303) virtually with Industrial Safety and Leadership (ITP 211) and Physics (PHYS 121) in person. She said she was excited to be able to meet more people in her major this year in these face-to-face classes and to start building relationships with her teachers.

Tenberg said his physics teacher Johnan Fernsler had made it clear that all accommodations for this transition would be met, “automatically no questions asked.”

This transition has been a major milestone for many students, and while faculty are open to working with students, the adjustment is still a bit baffling for some.

Jessica Drabkin, a sophomore business administration student, described her first in-person class this year as “a little overwhelming.”

“We’ve been in a classroom most of our lives for classes, but I think getting back on track will take a little while,” Drabkin said.

Cassandra Duarte, a second year journalism student, had a similar experience with mixed emotions of overwhelm and excitement.

“It was actually a little weird but also really cool,” said Duarte. “I actually feel like I’m in college now, like I’m not just doing chores like I’m in a college simulator or something. In fact, I am sitting in the classrooms of a university.

Many students said they liked the in-person format better than the virtual one because it creates more accountability for engagement.

“I was definitely distracted by my phone or other things when I was on virtual and now I think I’ll be careful all the time,” said Bradley Allgood, sophomore mechanical engineering student.

This sense of engagement goes beyond focusing on classroom work. Students said they also felt more socially engaged in the classroom.

“You don’t really express yourself the same in virtual classrooms and people have turned off their cameras and you’re not really giving it your full attention,” Duarte said. “But when you’re actually there in the classroom you see everyone taking notes [and] answer the teacher. You’re not on the mute, so when you laugh at a joke the professor said, it’s not all silence.

The in-person experience makes most people feel more comfortable talking to their peers and improves their willingness to collaborate with each other.

“I feel like everyone has had this experience at least once where you’re put in a breakout room and literally nobody says anything and keeps their cameras off and that’s the most uncomfortable thing. that is. So with in-person classes, that won’t happen, ”said Grace Reilly, a sophomore psychology student. “You’re not just going to form groups for a mission and you’re not just going to sit and look at each other. “

Drabkin describes the people in his in-person classes as much more “excited” to participate and “open” to peer interaction.

Students also noted that being in person improved their collaboration with teachers.

“I feel like it’s a lot easier to be able to interact with my teachers,” Drabkin said. “From the start of my classes, I was able to introduce myself to them and get to know them more personally and feel more comfortable reaching out if I am having difficulty in class.”

While the in-person format made it easier to interact with faculty, students say they find they need to put a little more effort into making that connection.

“I was thinking about it today, as if my teacher didn’t know my name until I like to approach them in person and introduce myself, while on Zoom our names are attached to our faces, ”Reilly said.

Duarte expressed a similar sentiment.

“I would be one of the only ones on Zoom to speak and so my teacher generally knew who I was and I don’t know how it’s going to be affected going in person because now I’m in a sea of ​​faces,” said Duarte.

As the school year begins, more students than ever are still finding their place. Many understand and return to the dynamics of face-to-face learning with a mixture of uncertainty and excitement.

“I think people who are going to automatically take all of their classes in person might have a harder time adjusting,” Tenberg said. “But I am delighted to be back in person and to learn and pay a little more attention than I have done online.”

Other students said they felt this transition helped them regain a sense of normalcy, as they pick up the pace of in-person teaching.

“Obviously I was very excited, but I didn’t expect fireworks to be shot from the spotlight or anything,” Reilly said. “So after doing it virtually for so long, I thought it would be so weird to finally be in person, but it’s not. I just felt like the time had not passed.


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