Our abrupt transition to fully remote learning this semester has been disruptive, to say the least! Isenberg faculty and staff have all worked hard to make sure all students are able to continue learning and growing even though we can't be together on campus. Because this all happened so suddenly, students have had a lot of questions about the process and the resources that are available.
Last week, I hosted a webinar with Assistant Dean Melvin Rodriguez to answer some of the most frequently asked questions that we've been getting from undergraduate students. You can watch a recording of the virtual session here or read a summary of the answers below.
I appreciate everyone's questions and I'm so grateful to all of you for staying as positive as possible during this difficult time!
Q: Some students are feeling that remote learning makes classes feel optional, even though they're not. What are some ways to better imitate in-person learning and develop discipline and structure?
A: Get into a working mode and set aside physical space dedicated to studying, and work where you can leave all your work. One of the big differences in being online is losing our natural breaks in our day: walking to class, coffee breaks, moving from building to building, etc. So I suggest getting up and walking around, building breaks into the day, and getting outside when you can. The last thing—and we've told our faculty too—you need to overcommunicate. Connect in any way and stay in close contact with instructors, family, and friends.
A lot of people suggest getting up, showering, and getting dressed, even when you’re not going anywhere. That really helps them transition to “working mode” so they can focus on work.
It’s also really important to set aside a physical space for work if it’s at all possible. Even if you’re just taking your laptop to the kitchen table during your “workday” and moving it to the couch when you’re using it to stream Netflix, it can help with the mental challenge of focusing on work.
When you’re working on campus, you take breaks, right? So give yourself time to do that—Zoom lunch breaks with friends are a great way to break up your day, socialize, and let off some steam.
Connecting with friends and comparing experiences will also help you remember that everybody’s still working and studying as much as they’re able, even though school is happening in different formats and schedules.
The most important thing is to stay in close touch with your instructors! Absolutely check in during their virtual office hours, even if you don’t have specific questions. Just communicate—they’re also adjusting to this new mode, and they need to know how it’s going on your end.
Q: Jared, class of 2020 asks: How will the recent pass/fail announcement affect our residency credit requirement with respect to our summa cum laude eligibility and status?
A: The Commonwealth Honors College has waived the grading policy for honors requirements taken during the Spring 2020 term. Specific to Latin Honors, however, a decision has not yet been finalized for any adjustments to Spring 2020. It is high on the list to resolve.
Q: What do I do if I don’t have access to a laptop, Internet, or a specific software to complete my coursework?
A: Students are advised to make a request through the Undergraduate or Graduate office if they find that they need additional hardware for remote learning needs. Most students can complete coursework with the free version of Office 365 found on the UMass IT website. If you need additional software you normally us in our computer labs, your professor can arrange access to Isenberg’s virtual computers through TSS.
Q: Can students take an incomplete for one or two courses if they’re falling behind?
A1: Yes. If you are passing the course at the time the request is made. You should detail the extenuating circumstance to the instructor and also let Dean Rodriguez know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure he’s aware of your situation. Pass/fail deadline has been extended to April 28, 2020. We are also asking the faculty to be flexible with deadlines and encouraging them to adapt to the new routines and adjust their deadlines as necessary.
Q: Are Isenberg and UMass offering any resources to students who work on campus who can no longer pay their bills?
A: Students may start by contacting the Dean of Students Office at the University because they may be aware of various emergency loans that might be available to students. They may also provide students with other resources throughout the state that might provide some sort of assistance.
Q: When will that undergraduate office merchandise be available again?
A: We are actively working on a way to accept payment and process shipping but are not ready to take orders at this time. However, you can visit shop.isenberg.umass.edu or watch out on social media for swag giveaways.
Q: Mikaela, class of 2021, asks: I’m a rising senior, and I need to start my honors thesis next semester, but the faculty member I want to work with seems stressed right now—should I hold off on asking them?
A: Please reach out to your faculty member to initiate the process. We are all adjusting to this new system of working but they are there to support you. Do not hesitate to reach out at any time, or ask them when they are holding office hours.
Q: Some students have questioned what will happen if the transition to remote learning continues into the fall? Should they sign up for online classes for the fall? Their rationale is that they would rather be enrolled in classes that are “meant” to be online, rather than take the chance that on-campus instructors will be teaching remotely again.
A: Let's keep in mind that faculty had very limited time to set up and transition their courses to online this spring, but if we do have to continue remote learning in the fall, faculty will have much more time to plan and be ready to present their courses in the online space. Fingers crossed this won't happen, but we are taking the steps to be prepared.
Currently, “on-campus” students must be enrolled in six credits on campus before they are allowed to enroll in up to two classes online (unless they apply to the online program or are completing their last semester “senior year in absentia”). Remember that online courses are an extra expense and will be charged separately.
Q: There is also confusion about enrollment dates—some students haven’t realized that dates have been pushed back in Spire.
A: Just keep reading emails and check in with Spire to keep up with the changes. The Undergraduate Programs Office is available to help answer any questions—look at isenberg.umass.edu/students for links to the advising office's Frequently Asked Questions. That’s where you’ll also find all the relevant email addresses and other ways to quickly get advising and registration questions answered.
Q: Will there be any specific Isenberg senior events postponed to sometime in May or prior to the postponed graduation?
A: There have not been any new developments on the rescheduling of commencement. We are still very much looking forward to hosting a late summer commencement on campus. We are looking for any suggestions on how to create a meaning experience for the Class of 2020—those ideas can be submitted to email@example.com. If you have any ideas for an Isenberg-specific celebration, especially around May 8 for a virtual event, please send those thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you all for your grace under pressure and patience during this time! Stay distant and we should see you soon!