By now it’s no surprise to hear “online,” “virtual” and “Zoom” as placeholders for our usual classroom lexicon. The 2019 – 2020 school year wrapped up with an abrupt transition to online learning and left many students with more questions than answers. As universities find ways to deliver high quality content via unconventional teaching channels, students have been able to alter their learning styles to continue their education online. While many people were quick to criticize and find fault with video buffering and internet glitches, there have been many unexpected positive impacts on education that have emerged from the online education transition.

According to Harvard University Professor Frances Frei, “There is more participation online, I’m not sure if the technology spurs it or if I was unintentionally stifling it in person, but it was very different. And awesome. And I commit to figuring out how to bring that back to the physical classroom” (Harvard Gazette, 2020). It seems as though students feel a compulsion to be online on time, have their video function turned on, and be an active participant in group discussions as well as ask questions more frequently.

Online learning has also brought us a new wave of interactive pedagogy. Professor Frei also indicated that breakout rooms and online chats are now forcing students to partner up with students in their timezone, not necessarily the friend they sit next to in class. With new study groups and partnerships forming, new ideas and thoughts are blossoming as well.

If Zoom breakout rooms or online chats don’t strike you as new and innovative, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hans Taparia, an Associate Professor at NYU, wrote in The New York Times, “One professor at [NYU’s] Tisch School of the Arts taught a drama course that allows students to ‘act’ with each other in virtual reality using Oculus Quest headsets. A music professor at Stanford trained his students on software that allows musicians in different locations to perform together using internet streaming” (New York Times, 2020). Highly ranked universities like Stanford and NYU have made great strides in minimizing the negative impact that the pandemic and subsequent abrupt migration from in-person to online education have had on their students.

So what can you do to continue to build your academic background and create a standout application for yourself? Stanford and MIT are offering free online courses that are available on-demand and can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world – and did we mention they are free?!

Links to some of these free course offerings can be found here:

About the author
Emily Hadfield

Em received a BS in global business management and a BA in Chinese language from the University of Rhode Island. Em has been studying Mandarin Chinese for five years, including a year at Beijing Union University. Em manages marketing, event planning and client relations for graduate counseling as well as Impact programs.

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