Tag Archives: school

Two Sides of Online Learning: A Dual Perspective as a Student and Teacher

By Minghan Shelley Sun 

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4 minute read]

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems that we spend most of our time switching between screens while taking classes, socializing, or completing  work and internship projects. The digital fatigue we get from constantly looking at screens has eliminated the enjoyment and happiness we are supposed to receive from these activities or events. Because of this, a new question has been raised: How can educators infuse more excitement and motivation into online classes? Currently, I am taking online classes for the second semester in a row at the graduate level. I’m working from China and am also a student-teacher for a class at the USC International Academy. Therefore, I’ve gone through the process of adapting to online learning from both a student’s and a teacher’s perspective, and luckily, I’ve gained some insights and hope to shed some light on this issue for everyone who is also facing this issue.

Perspective as a graduate student

During this past semester (Fall 2020), my online classes seemed to always have group discussions and tasks. Having participated in many Zoom breakout rooms, I became aware of a sense of separation occurring when being grouped with different classmates. One experience I remember in particular is when I was in a breakout room with three classmates I’d never spoken to before. When we first entered the breakout room, no one started the conversation but just stared at their screens. I wondered to myself, ‘What are they doing?  Are they checking the rubric or looking for something?’ Eventually, I couldn’t stand the awkward silence so I broke the ice by saying “Hi, guys. Have you found the work document?” which started our conversation. Although we pretty much finished our assigned task, our discussion was superficial and did not really reach my expectations for that class. I was genuinely disappointed and felt upset about what I felt was a loss in value of that class time.

However, there was another time when I was grouped with a classmate who was talkative and willing to share their ideas, and that experience was totally different. From the beginning, our greetings naturally warmed up our discussion, and some common thoughts that we expressed about the class deepened our conversation and elicited more thinking and sharing. This experience showed me that if all of the members of a breakout room are willing participants, the conversation can be great.

Perspective as a teacher

Recently, I was granted the opportunity to observe as a student-teacher in a class. Student-teachers at the graduate level typically learn to teach by observing the host teacher’s practices and teaching micro lessons in real classrooms. This is what I did at the USC International Academy during Spring 2020 and Fall 2020. Due to the sudden shift to online learning, I’ve noticed a drop in student engagement and motivation in the classes I have assisted, especially compared to the behavior of students that I observed in in-person classes during Spring 2020. In particular, I noticed one odd but common phenomenon in breakout rooms: although the teacher had carefully explained the activity the students were about to perform before going into breakout rooms, the students tended to keep silent when they first entered the room and still needed some time to discuss what the task was about. Even though the teacher had asked if the students had any questions before they joined the breakout room, sometimes they even started the breakout room discussion by asking “What are we supposed to do?”. Even though they performed better in group activities after several weeks of class, communication efficiency distinctly decreased compared to in-person classes.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Continue reading Two Sides of Online Learning: A Dual Perspective as a Student and Teacher

What It Means to be Asian American

By Sarah Ta

[3 minute read]

My identity has always been something that I could never quite pin down. When I was younger, I believed that I knew myself inside and out, and thought I could predict what my future self would be like. As I’ve gotten older and just a little bit wiser, I can say for certain that my past self was wrong. I am constantly changing and even if I continue to use the same terms to describe myself, those terms hold an entirely different meaning to me now than they did five years ago. One of those terms is “Asian American”.

While I have always known that I was Asian and identified as such, I didn’t feel the need to specify that I was also American. After all, I knew I was born in the United States and since most of my elementary classmates were as well, it was just something we all accepted. It wasn’t until I moved the summer before 7th grade when the need to specify that I was American came about. I went from a predominantly Asian school to a predominantly Hispanic/Latino school and suddenly, me being American was no longer a given. It took several months of being questioned about whether I was born here and what my ethnicity was before things finally settled down and everyone moved on with their lives. However, their questioning left me more unsure of my own identity than I would have liked to admit. Just identifying as Asian no longer felt adequate enough, but with my limited vocabulary and knowledge, I pushed my small identity crisis aside and continued on with my carefree middle school days.

It wasn’t until high school that I discovered the term Asian American. By then, my little identity crisis had been almost forgotten. I don’t remember how I came across the term, but once I did, it was like a light bulb had lit up inside my head. That was the term that I had been unconsciously searching for since middle school, and finding it was like finding the missing piece to my identity puzzle. While I continue to identify as Asian American, the meaning of that term has changed since then. Being Asian American used to mean that while my ancestry was Asian, I was born here and so that made me American. There was a clear line between those two categories, but I just happened to be in both. Now, I realize that there is no line. Being Asian American is a melting pot of many different experiences and it is not something that can be easily separated into nice, neat categories. Even though it can be a confusing mess at times, it is one that I have never been more proud to be a part of, and every day I am learning more about my culture and how my identity shapes who I am.

Featured Image by Christina Boemio on Unsplash

Sarah is an undergraduate student from the San Gabriel Valley studying GeoDesign. In her free time, she enjoys reading, exploring L.A., trying new foods, and of course, meeting new people. She can speak conversational Cantonese, and is currently learning Mandarin. Even though her Chinese is limited, that doesn’t stop her from striking up a conversation with other international students. 

Five Lessons from My First Semester at USC

By Sarah Ta

My first semester at USC was a complete roller coaster. There were a lot of ups and downs, but through that crazy adventure, I learned a lot of life lessons. I’m sure I will learn more as I continue to study here at USC, but as of right now, here are the five most important lessons I learned during the first four months of my college career.

Go to USC events.

In high school, it was uncool to go to events planned by the school, but it’s different in college. For one, you’re actually paying to attend college, while public high school has free tuition. USC has different programs such as Visions and Voices, Cardinal and Gold, and Late Night ‘SC that offer free events. Visions and Voices focuses on enriching the student experience with art and performances from renowned artists. Cardinal and Gold offer trips (that are paid for!) to explore LA and get to know more about the culture. Late Night ‘SC usually offer events on Friday nights as an alternative to going out to parties. So next time you see a flyer for a USC event, don’t hesitate to invite a few friends to RSVP with you. There’s really no reason for you not to go, so take that time to relax and hang out with some friends!

Photo by Stephanie Asher on Flickr

Make a strict homework schedule and stick to it.

There will be times where you will not want to do homework, and if you’re anything like me, that time will probably come around the second week of school. If you already have a good schedule, great! Stick to that and make sure to not give in to the temptations of watching baby animal videos on YouTube. If you haven’t already, make a schedule ASAP! I made the mistake of thinking I didn’t need a schedule, but if you’re not great at motivating yourself to do work (like me), then it might be a good idea to set aside certain hours to just focus on doing homework.

Photo from NeedPix

Don’t skip meals, but don’t overeat either.

Every talk you’ve ever heard about the Freshman 15 is real. This is especially true at USC because of the unlimited meal plan all freshmen are required to have. Not only do we have unlimited swipes, all the dining halls are served buffet style, which makes it easy to overeat. With so many choices, my friends and I would usually end up eating several plates of food, only to regret it later. I also skipped a lot of meals in order to finish up assignments (which is not something I recommend), so my eating schedule was all over the place. Long story short, skipping meals and then overeating later is extremely unhealthy, so try to make time for three balanced meals throughout the day. Your body will thank you.

Photo from Pexels

Whatever you do, don’t wait till the last minute.

The first semester of college is an exciting time of your life, and it’s easy to place priority on other things besides schoolwork. I mean, no one actually wants to do homework on a Friday night. However, if you have paper due Sunday night, don’t think that it’ll be a good idea to do it Sunday after a weekend of hanging out with friends. You will be exhausted and while you might be able to turn it in on time, it will probably be something that you are not proud of. Doing things last minute can quickly become a habit, and when you end up having multiple assignments due on the same night, trying to finish all of them will be a nightmare. So, save yourself the pain and start on your assignments earlier.

Photo from Pexels

Get into a habit of making your bed.

This last piece of advice might be the strangest and the simplest one, but it’s a good habit to get into. Making your bed only takes about two minutes in the morning, but it plays such a huge role in how your room looks and feels. The bed is the largest piece of furniture in the room, so making your bed can immediately “clean up” a large part of your room. Even if the rest of your room is a little messy, the mess will seem less overwhelming thanks to your bed. There’s also just something really comforting about crawling into a neatly made bed at the end of the day. Do your future-self a favor and make your bed in the morning.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Transitioning into college can be a complicated process, but take your time and go with the flow. I wish you the best of luck with your college career, and may your roller coaster have more ups than downs.

Photo from Pixabay

Featured image from USC Libraries Website

Sarah is an undergraduate student from the San Gabriel Valley studying GeoDesign. In her free time, she enjoys reading, exploring L.A., trying new foods, and of course, meeting new people. She can speak conversational Cantonese, and is currently learning Mandarin. Even though her Chinese is limited, that doesn’t stop her from striking up a conversation with other international students.