Mason Gross students weigh in on classes moving online
Recently, Rutgers — alongside many universities — have shuttered operations for in-person classes and have transitioned online. The transition has been smooth within some majors, but not as smooth with others. I’ll be looking at the transition from in-person classes to online spaces by the hardest hit — Mason Gross School of the Arts students.
When asked, Mason Gross students have expressed that it has been a learning curve, due to the transition online and how classes were in person before.
All of the students responded that what once was a physically interactive and engaging learning experience had been reduced to online classes. While online classes still offer the opportunity to learn the same course material, I got the sense that they felt that this new environment wouldn’t be as conducive to learning as their traditional environment they were suited to.
Justin Yu, a Mason Gross first-year majoring in design, weighed in on this, providing additional insight in addition to the general consensus.
“Generally, classes that are already oriented online, such as a design class, in which you use a computer to work with, it's much more adaptable than classes like drawing fundamentals, where you're required to present your physical work to people,” he said.
He elaborated on his point, citing major-related classes like drawing fundamentals. "We're simply just uploading our work to point to a public folder to present to everyone else. That's a viable substitution to our current situation,” he said.
Kaushik Tare, a Mason Gross first-year majoring in film, noted a different problem. He reflected that classes are centered around film screenings and that changes must be made to accommodate that.
“We're now using like a system where they send us the link for the film, a day in advance. We have time to watch it and then we go and then we have a WebEx conversation,” he said.
While he is no longer able to have the authentic experience of watching cinema with classmates in real time, they are still able to have a conversation about it after the fact.
Scarlette Reyes, a Mason Gross first-year majoring in design, related her experience. “The point of going to art school is to learn directly from someone in that artist's space, and for this to stop and turn into an online course is really weird,” she said.
When asked about how much their major relied on Rutgers resources each of them responded differently.
Yu talked about the applications needed by design students: “We often orient our work around Adobe Creative Cloud programs such as Adobe InDesign, Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator. Mason Gross does provide free Adobe Creative Cloud access to all students, so that definitely helps for those who do not have access or have already purchased Creative Cloud at home.”
Reyes noted that her major relied on facilities important to the Rutgers campus. “Specifically visual arts majors, all of our classes are centralized to this one building in downtown New Brunswick called the City Square Building," she said.
Tare speaked about the equipment needed by film students. “(Rutgers) has done a lot in terms of trying to get us equipment. I think it was the 10th of March that immediately the filmmaking center sent an email saying to everyone to go rent out as much equipment, go rent equipment so you have something and you could return it when it’s safe to return,” she said.
When asked about their impression of online classes, students were pretty receptive to it. I found that this virus has disrupted specific schedules that have been a comfortable routine for students. To have that taken a way has left many of them without structure in their days and for some without motivation.
“I was used to having a specific schedule on the records campus. I would work during specific hours, eat, sleep and everything was kind of set up a specific way that worked for me. Now it kind of goes all backwards, and I feel like there's no more daily structure anymore,” Reyes said.
Yu noted that his major was somewhat impacted, but they are still able to work past that. “Well with design, it’s much more adaptable since everything’s already synced online,” he said.
Asking about the overall response of the University was met with mixed responses.
Reyes gives the University the benefit of the doubt in this time. “Yeah, I’m actually sort of surprised at how well (it) took care of this situation. This is like something that's never happened before. So considering that I think (it) responded really quickly, and I think (it) did the best (it) could do in a situation like that,” she said.
Yu was a bit more critical of the response. “I feel like the planning and the carrying out the news on the students with the new operating side of the University was very rushed. In my case, a lot of my teachers didn't even have an established plan on what to do with online classes, until they got the news at the same time as all the other students with the new operating status. It would have been better if the University was able to give a longer notice on the change, because a lot more teachers are trying to figure out the aspect that comes with online teaching,” he said.
Given his grievances, he also offered a recommendation. “Maybe there could have been more training for the teachers themselves, and like knowing how to use these new online class softwares,” he said.
On the other hand, Tare, also a commuter student, reflected that it saved in terms of time on his commute. "Rutgers has been very open with (its) response to the virus you know how (it's) going to tackle it and try to control the situation as much as (it) can," he said.
While the response to Rutgers’ transition plan was varied, one thing was for sure — Rutgers and the community at large have been dealt a decidedly new and unusual problem, and it made sure to act in the best interest of its students.
To end, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has had a visible impact on Mason Gross students, and Rutgers as a whole. Moving forward, students should see about finding a new schedule they’re comfortable with and leave some breathing room to adjust to these new conditions.
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