The Risks and Rewards of Virtual Learning

The United States today is dealing with debatably the worst ongoing health crisis it has ever faced. As a student, my summer “vacation” consisted of sitting at home refreshing my school email every few hours waiting for updates. Will they be using my old dorm room to house positive cases? Will I be going back in the fall? Even if we can go back, should I return to campus or stay home and work? Will I be able to afford college this year? These were only some of the thoughts running through my mind regarding going virtual this year. As I write this, the future is still uncertain, and some of these questions remain. Determining my plans this academic year were based on weighing the pros and cons of my options. One course in particular, a writing seminar of risks and rewards with Dr. Beth McCoy highlights the risks and rewards to her college course. Just as in Octavia Butler’s short story “Bloodchild”, there is risk and reward to living on the preserve.

In a course designed around risk and reward, opportunities and restrictions are prevalent amongst the expectations for this course. Dr. McCoy’s writing seminar provides students with trust and an opportunity to be mindful of the growth of not only themselves, but their peers. This is to center the focus of this class to be based more on learning than trying to get by with a sufficient grade. Dr. McCoy also incorporated a Care policy. This involves care for accountability, your own growth, and your peers’ growth. For example, the Tlics and Terrans in “Bloodchild”. They live amongst each other with rules set in place allowing them to live in peace. Tlics must protect Terrans, and in return Terrans provide Tlics with one male from each family to host Tlic eggs. Tlics and Terrans have their own version of Dr. McCoy’s Care policy. They must rely on each other for survival. By providing students the opportunity to focus on the quality of their work over a number in the gradebook provides a safe space to share their writing and knowledge to peers without fear of judgement. Being able to share your ideas freely is extremely rewarding. To allow students the opportunity to focus on their growth over grade will also show success and be rewarding to all students that take this course.

From the syllabus, the main learning outcomes from the writing seminar are as follows. “The ability to read significant texts carefully and critically, recognizing and responding to argumentative positions. The ability to write and revise sustained, coherent and persuasive arguments on significant issues that arise from the content at hand. The ability to write clearly, following the conventions of Standard English. The ability to incorporate information gleaned through library research into written arguments.” The class is meant to provide basic reading and writing proficiency for higher level college courses. In order to find success in this course, we must slow down and take the time to read, understand, and respond to readings with a persuasive argument. At the beginning of June, I was given a choice. To return to campus, or stay at home and continue doing online classes as I did for the majority of spring semester and the summer term. I chose to return to campus, as I was diagnosed with asthma, and my parents were worried for my safety. Geneseo is a much smaller town than where I am from and would provide me the isolation and quarantine duration I would need if deemed necessary. 

At the same time, academic dishonesty is a serious issue SUNY Geneseo takes very seriously. Students in all classes run the risk of being academically dishonest. Especially while the majority of classes are being held virtually and online. In spite of the current situation our country is facing, we as students are in turn responsible to maintain time management, and a consistent work ethic. As a current sophomore, last year was very stressful managing time with friends, classes, and workload. Now with the global pandemic, we face an extra challenge of health safety. The uncertainty can have lasting mental health effects on all of us, especially as students. When faced with stress and a lack scheduling, it is easy for students to search for a shortcut in any way they can. Luckily, maintaining my coursework for several classes thus far, even under the pressures of health safety in the Geneseo community has been manageable. 

According to the fight or flight theory, when faced with a stressful situation, you have two options. Some may try to flee or avoid the scene at all costs, but it is those who push through head first that will find success first. I am very lucky to have supportive friends and family that want to see me grow as a student. They have helped me to see the bigger picture when I am distracted by what the future holds and how it will affect me. Although the next few years are uncertain as to what the pandemic has in store for our country, we have to focus on the rewards, and push through the risks.

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