USC students returned from Spring Break yesterday. Of course, this wasn’t to our beloved E-Quad and trusty Engineering Computing Center, but instead to a virtual campus hosted through the meeting platform, Zoom.
As many of you may know, USC and universities across the country have removed to remote instruction to allow proper social-distancing and to stop the spread of COVID-19. Before Spring Break, USC did a test run of online classes, but we were still on campus, so yesterday marks our first official day of truly remote education.
This move to remote education was necessary to protect the safety of students and promote the wellness of our broader communities. I am grateful to have had the time before Spring Break to prepare for this transition while still on campus, but in all honesty this format of learning will bring new challenges.
While I didn’t experience technical difficulties during the test-run, with the high influx of users on videoconferencing platforms, problems have come up. Yesterday, my first video stream of lecture crashed 3 minutes into class. The lecture quickly went back online, but problems persisted throughout the day. Sometimes poor internet connections caused the video to lag or the audio to be distorted so I couldn’t understand the professor or my classmates. This happened again in my courses today.
I know USC IT is working tirelessly to make the platform the best it can be, and this is just day two. I am confident that it will improve, and all my professors are working so hard to adjust to this new form of teaching. One of my professors is so dedicated to the success of her students that she even purchased a new WiFi router. Other professors are modifying collaborative projects so they can be completed remotely. Students help each other in the Zoom chat box by typing things the professors have said that other students may have missed due to bad audio or lag. Zoom lectures won’t be able to replace the value of an in-person classroom experience, but we are trying our best in a tough situation.
So, even as we get used to learning in this new environment and its challenges, and I am physically more distant from USC and my classmates than ever, I am reminded why I love USC. My classmates support me, my professors want to see me succeed, and the University wants to provide the best opportunities for students no matter where they are. Sure, I love being in Los Angeles, I love watching USC football, I love being with my classmates, and I even love (maybe not love 🙂 ) pulling all-nighters at Sal, and I am really bummed to not have that all right now. And beyond school, this is a really challenging time for us all. We are living through an unprecedented global pandemic, which means not just shifts in our educations but fundamental shifts in the way we live. So, while so much has changed in the past few weeks, the strength of the friendships I have made at USC remains, and more than ever, I am thankful for the Trojan family.