Coronavirus, Education & Old Drafts

April 2, 2020
This week was the second of virtual classes for UMass Boston, as well as many other universities in the New England area. The (responsible, ethical) lot of us spent spring break in isolation, writing from our couches instead of our local coffee shops. No one in higher education is excited about the move to digital (if you know someone who is, bless), but higher education is a privileged sphere whether we are learning in a classroom on a campus or from a MacBook in a living room.

Public K-12 schools across the country, though, are not so privileged. Teachers have had to spontaneously reinvent the wheel to bring learning online and create curricula to accommodate virtual instruction. Some public schools are foregoing grades in favor of “enrichment” as a way to address unequal access to technology and special-needs learning. The traditional model is lost, and no one can be sure what learning benchmarks will have been reached once students (hopefully) return to school in the fall. There is also the question of students whose main meals are school-provided breakfast and lunch, though (thankfully) many districts seem to be providing ways for parents to continue to obtain this food for their kids.

Meanwhile, UMB recently sent out an email containing this sentence: "These are not 'online' courses; they offer the same academic experience in a distance modality." That's fancy language for "there will be no tuition refunds." My graduate seminars have transitioned to Zoom with relative ease, but I can imagine the frustration my undergraduate self would have faced if forced into paying thousands of dollars for six virtual classes. Labs and other courses that are much more than pass/fail, as well as classes that require the use of software that many students have access to only on campus, do not fit squarely into the "online course" definition (let's forget that "distance modality" nonsense, because it is absolutely not "the same academic experience"). 

As for me? My essence is hermit I've been digging into old, pushed-into-the-depths-of-my-desk drafts and considering how to adjust for craft, believability in particular. I've been reading fiction and spirituality books, diving deep into the soul, for lack of a better description. I've also been (is this ironic?) investing time into non-academic digital courses, including Yale's most popular one, "The Science of Well-Being," which explores the psychology of happiness and how to rewire your brain to boost— you guessed it— happiness. And I have just as much schoolwork as I did pre-isolation, though I'm essentially down two jobs. 

Just wanted to weigh in on all this. Stay distanced and stay safe.

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