As Cal Poly moves into winter quarter, students and staff reflect on their fall quarter challenges and experiences. While it was ideal for some, many struggled with the nature of the online learning environment.  

Political science junior Allison Polmar said she felt the fall quarter was particularly challenging. 

“I feel like the professor’s expectations were a lot higher in the fall quarter because we had the summer to get adjusted, and we already had the test-run of virtual classes in spring,” Polmar said.  “It’s definitely hard to stay motivated by staring at a screen for hours each day.”

Polmar said she also found it difficult to complete online school with three other roommates who were also in all virtual classes.  

“It was definitely hard being cooped up in the house 24/7 with all of us doing online class,” Polmar said.  “On top of learning roommate boundaries, we also had issues with the WiFi crashing, which made the learning environment stressful at times.”

For Polmar, “Zoom fatigue” during fall quarter made her miss in-person learning even more.

“There’s something comforting about being surrounded by students in a classroom versus being alone in your bedroom with the camera on,” Polmar said. “I’d do anything to be surrounded by other students who were stressed out like me.” 

Meanwhile, graphic communication senior Etai Chen-Zion said that he enjoys the ideal commute to class and that he can rewatch lectures if the information is missed. But, Chen-Zion said there are still negatives. 

“The downside is that I don’t get to roam the beautiful halls of Building 26 (GRC) and see all my friends and faculty each day,” Chen-Zion said.

Electrical engineering professor David Braun felt a loss of connection with his students due to the virtual learning environment. 

“It’s far more difficult to get to know the students who only appear as post stamps on the screen,” Braun said. “Getting to know new students was a real challenge.”

The College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean for Operations, previously the Head of the Theatre Department, Josh Machamer, taught all virtual class fall quarter. Machamer believes that he lost the potential for real connections between himself and his students. 

“Virtual learning meant that students and professors missed that sense of conversation, the sense of collaborating and the sense of dialogue,” Machamer said. “I think what I have learned is that learning is about connection, and if I can strengthen and facilitate those connections, then I have done my job.” 

However, Machamer believes that there was a real difference between spring quarter and fall quarter. 

“Fall quarter was far more successful than spring. It gave us professors more intentionality and control,” Machamer said. “Fall quarter was not a disaster.”

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