COVID-19 prevention efforts resulted in University of Washington classes going online in March, and it is impossible to know when in-person classes will again be the norm. We asked a few students to write about their experiences in online classes.
As everything moved online, I was just finishing with winter Quarter and Design 166, where I was able to receive a high enough GPA to be directly admitted into the design program. When I started spring quarter online, it was a lot to adjust to, but I was excited to go into it knowing I was in my major and was starting to explore another part of the School through Art History 220 (Survey on American Art). Taking a history class that heavily focused on art was new to me, but I enjoyed gaining a new perspective on history through the lens of artists of the time and learning how art played a role in history and how it is told. The class definitely would have been different if it was able to be held in person but, looking back on it, I do believe that I was still able to gain all of the information I would have if I took it in person. I specifically loved when the instructor, Kolya Rice, incorporated local artists or art pieces that can be found locally. It made me feel more connected to what I was studying. The Art History class I took counted as a writing credit. As I continued to go through the quarter, expectations became clearer and my writing started to grow. Everyone was figuring things out as we went. Kolya Rice kept students up to date with changes in assignments and ended up making some writing pieces optional to take some stress off students, especially towards the end of the quarter when social change started to become prevalent. Spring quarter, for a lack of better words, kept throwing curve balls. It was a lot to handle, but I experienced professors being flexible and understanding towards the uncertainty and anxiety many students faced on top of the course load. Dealing with the hardships from the isolation of quarantine and drastic changes in the world from day to day sometimes made it hard to focus on classes but flexibility and understanding from the UW community taught me just how important it is to have a community to build, grow, and lean upon. Before spring quarter, I looked into trying to complete a minor with my BDes and, after taking Art History 220, I decided that I wanted to declare an Art History Minor. I am excited to continue to learn about history through the lens of art. As autumn quarter approaches and many students are still going to be taking classes online, I feel a sense of uncertainty once again, but I am excited to start my design classes. I will be taking Design 207 (Design Drawing) and Design 210 (Collaboration and Improvisation). As of right now, I am intending to follow the Visual Communication Design track. The design courses I am going to take will challenge me and push my thinking, but I cannot wait to continue my studies and get to know the design community more, even if it is online.
As a sophomore college student, I, as many others, decided to take online classes this summer, continuing from spring online classes. During summer quarter, I took ACT 219 (an accounting class) and ENVS 100 (an environmental class). The accounting one was to begin my entrepreneurship minor, and the environmental class was to fulfill general college requirements. I thought taking classes this summer would be a great opportunity to advance in my class requirements and, although I didn’t take one directly in my major, starting accounting helped me get a head start on my minor.
I was very satisfied with my accounting class since, as an art major, I had never learned anything related to business and numbers, and this class made it very accessible for me to understand. The teacher held live Zoom meetings, which I think is more engaging than pre-recorded lectures, since it pushes me to ask specific questions I have in the moment and it helps me avoid procrastinating on watching my lectures. Also, the class was only twice a week, which was great for summer quarter, as I had the opportunity to do other things during the week and not worry about classes every day. The teacher was always very positive and always gave real life examples to work with. She also tried to make the class as engaging as possible online and encouraged students to meet one another. Also, as a visual learner, I was happy to see many graphs and slides to aid with understanding.
My environmental class was one I had been wanting to take as environmental change is very relevant today. I wanted to learn about how society interacts with climate change and possible solutions. This class was only in summer B term. Since I’d never taken a half-term course before, I found it very fast paced. It could be hard to keep up with, but by the end I learned many things I did not know before taking this class.
As for autumn 2020, I am most excited about taking ART 245 (Concepts in Printmaking), and a personal finance class. Since COVID-19 began, I had refused to take an art class online, since I wanted the studio experience. However, the description and professor of this class convinced me to take it online, as printmaking can definitely be done without a studio with some imagination. I am excited to begin learning how to create great art pieces without relying on heavy equipment, which I will probably not have once graduating from UW, so I’ll learn how to make use of the resources around me. Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing what the future at UW will bring as well as learning new things in my classes.
You could think of this year as a string of bad luck; a series of unfortunate events, per se. You could argue that it has been more than that. This year was like being a little kid again and going outside to play, rummaging around in the grass and dirt, then finding a big rock and turning it over to uncover all of the creepy crawlies underneath. All the worms, the spiders, the bugs, and insects you were scared of at age six and would promptly try to get away from. That is what 2020 has felt like for me — the exposure of a system full of frightening things I want to get away from. But choosing to ignore and turn the rock back over, pretending nothing is there, is an act of violence towards all of the other creatures down there who do not have the choice to look away.
This is why I love taking art history classes. Every single professor I have had since quarantine started, BLM movements heightened, and our political system has derailed has been aware and cognizant. They have been more than willing to engage in difficult discussions that we as students need to have right now. These are the same professors teaching about Picasso or Paris Architecture or museum studies — areas that are not directly related to politics or race or global pandemics. During one course I took in the spring, Decolonizing Museums, the professor would try and do an ice breaker every Zoom session to ease up students and center the morale for the session. Cheesy jokes, quirky questions, awkward show and tell, the whole works. Most of the time they ended in laughter and getting to know everyone a bit better, but the morning after George Floyd was murdered we had a Zoom session. We all logged on, no one was talking, and some cameras were off. Instead of trying to do a silly ice breaker, my professor sighed, fiddled with their pen a bit, and said "I don’t feel like doing an icebreaker today. Instead, I would like to open up a space for us to talk about how we are feeling, how we are coping, and how George Floyd’s death is affecting us." Admittedly, we were all a bit shy at first to say anything, but in time we worked our way into a discussion that became pivotal for me during that quarter — and that discussion was led by an art history professor. You do not have to major in LSJ or STEM or political science to have this kind of discourse, but that is what I felt for so long! These past two online quarters have made me so proud to be an art history major and so thankful to know the professors I do through this program.
It is impossible to say what the next few quarters are going to be like. Yes, technology is fickle and some professors are better with it than others, but at the end of the day those things are trivial. As we dive into more Zoom sessions, endless email chains, and awkward group projects, I don’t mind this new normal we are in as long as we continue to talk about the things that make us more than students — the things that make us human.