Oberlin Blogs

Part 2: Adventures in Cyberspace

May 4, 2020

In true Oberlin fashion, the learning is never done. While my Oberlin community helped prepare me for the transition to online classes, as discussed in Part 1: Dorm Away from Dorm, I had to figure out how to attend them.

Confession: I am not technologically savvy. On a regular day on Oberlin’s campus, my laptop is little more than a glorified word processor. Between all classes going online and learning to program in R Studio, I knew I had a lot of adjusting to do. With my professors’ support, the transition was a lot easier. Taking online classes at Oberlin still has many of the same qualities as an in-person Oberlin education. As the semester draws to a close, I feel fortunate that I got the opportunity to continue my studies.

Over the first week back in classes, I learned more about the possibilities of online schooling. I got to enjoy powerpoints timed perfectly with recorded lectures, creating class playlists on Spotify, and learning with my professors about the inner workings of Blackboard. As someone interested in becoming a professor, I was fascinated by how my professors figured out the digital equivalents for the invaluable work they do. Over this time, I feel as though I’ve gotten the chance to build lasting mentorships and finally find my educational niche. The process of digitization taught me valuable skills for cyberspace and beyond.

Lesson 1: Effective communication relies heavily on knowing how people can engage. In the first couple of weeks of classes, we all had to learn the limits of technology. In my performing arts workshop, this meant figuring out if we could sing in sync over the internet. Unfortunately, the sound lagged too much to continue. Likewise, lines scripted to be read at once were difficult to coordinate. If a video was shared, the sharer couldn’t be heard over the audio. As a result, we learned new ways to utilize the chat functions of Zoom and share the art we see.

We also learned that sometimes students’ Wi-fi connection could be aided by using only audio. As a result, we made it a point to check the chat function more regularly so people could express their reactions without the possibility of the sound or video freezing. 

Lesson 2: Consistency is vital. Practice means improvement. Switching from lively in-person discussions to typed paragraphs was jarring at first, especially in my creative writing workshop. Without the ability to print out all the poems, I felt confused about where to start in my annotations. The usual strategies I would use for underlining and circling weren’t options.

To make matters worse, I also found myself unmoored from Eastern Standard Time. I regularly lost drafts of Blackboard threads that had attachments. As a result, I often had to rush to submit my assignments before the deadline. The constant frustration of Blackboard led me to be especially careful when preparing my assignments. I gave myself additional time to complete my tasks to avoid late submissions.

Additionally, I consistently wrote my comments in a second document first. As time went on, I learned how to be more concise with my remarks and focus on the points I thought were the most important to share. 

Lesson 3: Sort what you save. The more .pdfs and .docx I downloaded to my computer, the harder it was for me to find anything. Important emails were quickly buried underneath layers of other emails. When I finally learned how to create folders, I could sort information for easy access. My improved organizational skills allow me to keep the valuable information I learned for years to come.

Oberlin has some of the most unique and informative courses of any college or university in the country. In the next part of this blog series, I plan to discuss some of my favorite class topics from this online module.

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