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Online Classes from a Grad Student's Eyes - ADMISSIONS BLOG | APU Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

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Online Classes from a Grad Student's Eyes

Online Classes from a Grad Student's Eyes

My Experience so Far

It has been a month since APU’s online classes started and surprisingly, I am still optimistic about it! Sure enough, doing online classes feels different than doing classroom learning but hey! There’s always a positive side to everything, right?

When I first downloaded the Zoom app, I had no idea how to use it. I was never familiar with these video conferencing apps anyway, and I was pretty sure it was going to take some time to learn all these functions. Lucky enough, I had joined an introductory session that was conducted by APU a week before the start of classes. The session took about an hour and as the instructor went along, I could see on the screen how perplexed my friends were, just as I was! At that moment I was relieved because I wasn’t the only one feeling lost (lol).

After the Zoom introductory session had ended, my friends and I decided to try out Zoom on our own. I wanted to experience being a Zoom host so that I could know all the functions of the app and be a step ahead of my friends who still didn’t know how to use it. As we experimented with the app, we discovered that we could change to a virtual background! So, I changed my background to a souvenir shop and jokingly asked my friends to visit my shop for snacks whenever they’re hungry. During classes, my friends would also change their backgrounds to beautiful scenery or something silly to lighten up the mood for other students, so we don’t fall asleep during class.

Classroom vs Online: The Differences

Classroom vs Online: The Differences

Last semester, I remember I had to start preparing 2 hours before the start of classes because I needed time to prepare my お弁当 (おべんとう obento – a packed lunch) and then jump on the bus. That means if I had first period classes, then I had to wake up at 6.30 a.m., which was too early for my brain to function properly. However, with online classes, I don’t have to worry about waking up super early because of the flexibility that comes with it. Instead of using 30-40 minutes for commuting, I could use the time to do my readings for my next class or when I feel lazy, I could literally wake up 15 minutes before the class starts, and still look fresh in front of the monitor (shhh, it’s a secret!).

Attendance also works differently. In normal classes, professors would often distribute attendance sheets which we fill in our names, student ID, and comments for the class. The TA would then gather the attendance sheet and record our attendance. However, in online classes, some professors have created a multiple response system to see whether students are really following the class. As I also happen to be working as a TA this semester, it has added more work for me as I have to check and input every student’s attendance every class for each response.

The last difference that I noticed was the change in course structure. Since we are all sitting in front of our computers with our web browsers open for classes, I can imagine the difficulty of holding an exam as we would normally. As a result, several professors have decided to change from the usual style exam to a project based final. In fact, in this quarter alone, I must do 6-7 group presentations and several more individual assignments. Because of this, I must plan everything carefully on my calendar to make sure that I have time to finish those assignments before the deadline. On top of that I also have other part-time jobs to do. I can say that I have a little too much on my plate right now!

The Challenges of Online Classes

The Challenges of Online Classes

As positive as I am about using the Zoom app for our classes, there were several hurdles that I couldn’t help but notice.

One of the biggest challenges that I have with doing online classes is the dependence on a good internet connection. If my internet speed drops below Zoom’s minimum required bandwidth, I won’t be able to hear my professors nor my friends clearly. As a graduate student, class participation accounts for 20% of the overall grade, so in each class, I try to be as active as possible by answering at least 2 or 3 questions from the professor. Because of that, if the internet in my house experiences a problem, I have to quickly switch to my mobile internet or go to a nearby café for a Wi-Fi connection. So far, I have experienced this problem only once, but luckily it went away after a few minutes of waiting.

The second challenge that I have experienced is the difficulty in coordinating group work. In one of the marketing courses that I am taking right now, the professor randomized group arrangements, meaning we were not able to choose the people who we are working with. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem as in normal classes we would talk and get to know each other during break time or after lectures. However, since we are taking online classes, we hardly hang out at all. Without meeting them in person, I feel that it’s hard to know their personalities, weaknesses, and strengths, making it difficult to divide work based on each team members’ capabilities. Moreover, another challenge for group work is the fact that we must also consider time zone differences, as some students are in their respective home countries.

Finally Getting Used to It

After finishing the first month of online classes, I felt that I have finally caught up with this new era of digitalization. Not only do I feel that I can use the app well, but I have also set up a routine to combat sleepiness in class: take a shower, set up a unique virtual background, and then prepare a cup of tea and snacks! Although there may be both positive and negative sides to having online classes, at the end of the day, it cultivates our self-motivation and responsibility and puts them to the test!

Photos featured are courtesy of APU Student Social Media Unit member Joshua Kevin Alviano.

■Recent Entries by Josh

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Joshua Kevin Alviano is a first-year master's student from Indonesia majoring in Marketing & Management. His passion for photography has taught him that creativity is limitless and there is always room for imagination. He also enjoys traveling and he often imagines himself drinking a cup of coffee on a cruise while traveling around the world.