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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Students alter courses they planned to register for in light of uncertainty surrounding Fall Quarter

Adjustments to schedule may change planned graduation date, other quarters’ schedules

With no clear answer to the question of how instruction will look in the fall, many students took the possibility of online instruction into consideration when deciding the courses they want to take during the first round of registration for Fall Quarter. 

For second-year history and anthropology double major Dhanya Indraganti, that deliberation centered around one course, ANT 100 (Sociocultural Theory), which is generally offered only in the fall. Indraganti had hoped to take the course this fall so that she wouldn’t have to take the heavy theory course along with her history seminar in the fall of her fourth year. Based on her experience with online instruction this quarter, Indraganti decided that she would push ANT 100 to her fourth year and try to take her history seminar another quarter. She said the quality of online courses is lower, in part due to decreased accessibility regardless of the quality of the professor. 

“For me, I’ve noticed that I feel like I’m not understanding the things that are going on in class even though I’ve been doing the readings,” Indraganti said. “If it’s a really difficult and more intense course, I might as well wait to take it.” 

Making these changes meant that she had to shuffle around the courses she wanted to take, something that is a little inconvenient for her since she planned her courses carefully to ensure she would meet all the requirements for her two majors. As a result of these changes, she has decided to take courses over the summer too, which she had not anticipated.

On top of this, Indraganti, who is currently still in Davis, is an international student from Qatar. If she is able to go back home over the summer and decides to do so, there is the additional concern that she won’t be able to return to Davis in the fall. 

“I don’t want to be taking courses that will be really difficult to do remotely,” Indraganti said. “Some courses have office hours in the middle of the day, and if I’m home I can’t [attend them].” 

Indraganti plans to be back in Davis in the fall, but with things as they stand, there’s no way for her to be sure.

“Mostly it’s just a concern of whether I can handle courses,” Indraganti said. “Because it’s really difficult to pay attention, finish my homework on time, finish reading on time and just make sure I’m still okay.”

When second-year sustainable environmental design major Andrea Ayotte was considering classes for Fall Quarter, she made two potential schedules — one for if classes were online and one for if classes were in-person. Ayotte said this quarter has been difficult, in large part due to a course that is supposed to involve field trips and outdoor labs that are no longer feasible. 

“They’ve done their best to teach what they can remotely, but I definitely feel like I’m missing out on skills and field experience that would help me in school and my future career,” Ayotte said via email. “It’s also an issue because we aren’t able to get as much feedback as before. My major has a lot of studio classes and it’s really hard to get that kind of individual experience remotely.”

Ayotte made her decisions for her fall courses based on her experience this quarter — she says that although remote instruction has made courses easier in some ways, it seems like professors know this and are trying to compensate through more difficult open-note exams, for example. 

“It’s interesting because I didn’t expect the standards to be higher during a global pandemic,” Ayotte said. “Because of this, I ended up having to drop a class at the beginning of the quarter because I couldn’t handle the workload, even though I was taking an amount of units I usually feel is well within my ability.”

Ayotte’s pass time was on May 18 and she opted to register for the classes in her online schedule based on her experience this quarter. She said she made her decisions because she felt that it would be better to be prepared for online courses and not “set [herself] up for failure.” 

If “things had been normal,” as she put it, she planned to take the LDA 140 series, the capstone courses for her major, starting this fall, setting her up to graduate early or allowing her to add a minor and decrease her course load intensity if she chose to stay for a fourth year. 

“It is really hard to make decisions when nothing is definite and you have no applicable life experiences to draw from,” Ayotte said. “Unfortunately, I feel sure that if they had to be taught online I would not get the full experience I want. Part of the classes are community projects and group work that I can’t see happening anymore. I had to make the tough decision to wait a year and work on minors and other classes instead of following my original plan.”

As a design and communication double major, second-year Dorothy Hung has a number of studio courses, which she describes as “labs for design students.” This quarter, she was supposed to have two three-hour long studios, but her two professors have approached remote learning differently.

“One of my professors decided to go the asynchronous route and meet with us briefly at the beginning of each week, while the other preferred to meet in person,” Hung said in an email. “It’s been interesting since both value social interaction differently.”

Hung feels that a lot of her courses are “quite relevant” and are “born to be taught online.” One course she is taking for her minor is a course on learning in the digital age, which she finds interesting especially since everyone seems to be figuring that out by trial and error this quarter. 

“As we analyze the pros and cons of technology and doing school away from school, we get to tie the content into current events and situations that we are experiencing with COVID-19,” Hung said. “I’m also taking a class called Designing for Quarantine, my studio class that meets in person each week. This class was created after the fact that school got canceled and this pandemic blew up, so it wasn’t much of a coincidence but still an interesting experience with designing to help people cope with social distancing.”

Hung also registered for an interpersonal communication course this quarter but ended up dropping it as the professor recommended students take it in person. She has registered to take the course this fall, but depending on how it goes, she may drop it again. 

For second-year political science and American studies double major Moa Smith, a number of the upper division courses that she is most excited about are being offered in the fall. Given the circumstances and what she had heard about other universities making their fall semesters and quarters entirely online, she decided not to register for them. 

“Since they’re the classes I’ve been looking forward to taking most since I’ve been at Davis, I really want to take them in person,” Smith said. “I feel like I learn so much better in person and you just get so much more out of it.”

Smith has chosen to take easier upper division courses and her last few lower division courses this Fall Quarter — classes that she cares about less. Even when she took a hybrid class as a first-year, she felt that it was harder to learn and to get as much work done in comparison to a traditional in-person class.

“I don’t want to risk not getting what I want to get out of a class just because it’s put online,” Smith said. 

This quarter has been interesting for Smith, who was enrolled in a year-long program in Sweden but had to return home in mid-March as a result of COVID-19. She described it as a big shock — even though everyone had some idea that their programs would be canceled, it all happened very fast and was stressful and chaotic. 

She said she is glad to be back home now, but she is not a huge fan of online courses. She has signed a lease and is looking forward to returning to Davis in the fall where she will have a better space in which to study and an environment more conducive to focusing on schoolwork.

“There’s so much uncertainty, it’s definitely hard to plan,” Smith said. “So I wish, in a way, that the school would just decide out of best interest to make [Fall Quarter] online so that we can plan for that for sure instead of sort of guessing and then hoping that classes will be offered later. Or just that there would be some sort of certainty so that it would be easier to plan ahead.”

Written by: Anjini Venugopal —  features@theaggie.org 


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