Student participates in class virtually. Credit: Fenn Bruns / Mustang News

As communication studies freshman Keira Brown discussed her class schedule with peers during Week of Welcome (WOW), she discovered that the classes on her schedule that said TBA meant something different than “To Be Announced.”

“I was waiting to figure out where my classes were or if they were going to be virtual,” Brown said. “And then, I found out during WOW, only a few days before school, that the TBA was ‘to be asynchronous.’” 

Cal Poly freshmen get block schedules for their first quarter to ensure they are taking classes that are essential for their major. 

According to Executive Communications Specialist Keegan Koberl, when the Office of the Registrar builds a student’s block schedule, they consult the student’s degree flowchart and curriculum sheet depending on their major and also the student’s past academic history, such as AP exam credit and transfer credits. 

Cal Poly offers a variety of class models, including in-person, virtual, synchronous, asynchronous and hybrid classes. 

In an Aug. 22 email to Mustang News – prior to the start of the school year – university spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote, “Of the classes that are not in person, 106 are being offered asynchronous, 54 synchronous and 11 asynchronous/synchronous hybrid.”

Those classes would only make up 2% of total course offerings, according to Lazier. The other 98% were planned to be in-person, though Lazier added that “things could fluctuate between now and the start of the quarter.”

“To maximize scheduling opportunities for students, the modality of a class is not taken into consideration,” Koberl wrote in an email to Mustang News.

According to the Office of the Registrar Block Scheduling webpage, students are discouraged from making any changes to their block schedules without consulting with an advisor first, as block schedules are carefully crafted for each individual student. 

While 97% of classes are being offered completely in-person this quarter, many freshmen found themselves blocked into either virtual or entirely asynchronous classes. 

Brown’s fall quarter schedule consisted of two asynchronous classes and only one in-person class, giving her little opportunity to build connections with professors and fellow students in her classes. 

“The downside [of asynchronous classes], is if you have any questions or clarifications, that’s gonna take a lot of time,” mechanical engineering freshman Matthew Podgorski said. “When you have it in-person, you’re able to do it upfront and kind of have a more effective face to face conversation.”

Freshmen are blocked into classes for the Winter quarter as well, but instead of a full schedule, students have the ability to add some classes themselves, which will allow them to have a little more control over which class models they take, Koberl wrote.

Academic departments and colleges consult with class instructors in order to decide the modality of a class, Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News. 

Out of all departments, the English department offers the most asynchronous courses, with 9% of its class sections being asynchronous.

Asynchronous classes require students to work independently on assignments and projects, allowing students to work at their own pace through the quarter. 

“I can kind of appreciate the flexibility it allows in my schedule,” Brown said. “So, if one day like I just want to knock out all my work for the entire week, I can do that.”