Online and hybrid classes – along with restrictions on gatherings – have made the first-year experience for current music education freshman different from years past.
Sydney Eaton, Webster music education major, said she has spent most of her first-year experience in bed getting restless between classes. Education has become a sort-of waiting game for her as she passes time on her laptop before her next Zoom class. School has been a mainly virtual experience for Eaton and music education major Alexandria Stewart, although both are taking hybrid classes.
“I was really looking forward to in-person classes because I was hoping it [Covid] would get better, obviously it didn’t, but I have a few in-person and some online,” Eaton said. “It’s not as bad as I thought it’s still like a good experience.”
Eaton worries that beginning college online could set the class back but said she’s seen people adjusting.
“I think they’ve adjusted well, everyone who’s in class is following six feet apart,” Eaton said. “Then, the people online are still trying to make it as personal, as educational as they can through the computer screen.”
Stewart said she is hopeful the virtual learning skills acquired during this time will benefit the class later although it may be difficult to catch up.
Despite being hopeful, Stewart said not every academic need can be met virtually.
“You can only do so much discussion in a group online,” Stewart said. “That’s one of the things that I feel like might be a little harder to catch up on, but I think it’ll come around eventually.”
Dr. Stuart Hill, Webster’s director of music education, is finding there are some advantages of doing education online. He has found himself using tools he always used but more or in a different way. A new way he has begun giving lectures is by pre-recording them. Rather than doing the lecture on Zoom, he said he utilizes that time for discussion or other activities.
“Why not make that a pre-recorded video that students can watch outside of class, along with doing the readings?” Hill said. “So then, you reserve that class time for discussion application, other activities that help reinforce that knowledge.”
Stewart believes professors making their expectations clear is essential to benefitting from the online learning environment.
“I feel like professors have been really good about making their expectations really clear, so that’s been really helpful for me,” Stewart said. “It’s like, ‘This is how we’re going to do it, and you can reach out anytime if you have any questions.’ I feel like that’s really helpful to me cause it’s like, it’s very clear what I need to do and how I need to go about doing it.”
Virtual learning has been difficult because Eaton said it can be hard to keep track of things not being in the classroom. Classes have felt hectic and she feels her college experience is missing something.
“It’s a little boring because you’re just sitting at home,” Eaton said. “You’re not interacting with people, but you’re not as stressed and tired or like running around in the heat.”
Hill said no one has experienced a first-year college experience quite like this but said he is trying to preserve the things about the first semester at college that really matter.
“I’ve really tried to hit on the point of, ‘I have office hours, don’t forget about my office hours there tomorrow or there whenever,’” Hill said. “So that students have that notion that we’re available, especially because I think that’s not only part of the broad college experience, but that’s also part of why students choose Webster. We’re a small place. We’re an intimate place.”
Stewart has noticed this community even while doing most classes virtually and said it was one of the reasons she decided to enroll.
“I feel like the professors have been really good about trying to engage us with each other,” Stewart said. “That has been helpful because I feel like I am getting to know people, just not as well as I would in person, but it still feels like a good community to me.”