When George Mason University transitioned to distance learning for its undergraduate students during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Schar School’s more than 90 professors quickly took inventory of their technology, received guidance on best practices for teaching online, and adjusted to teaching remotely.
But what was the student experience like?
Schar School undergraduate students were counselled and prepared to complete the semester—for many, their final months before graduation—in a virtual environment.
As we prepare for a hybrid fall semester, we asked undergraduate students for frank answers as to how the spring distance learning affected their grades, their lives.
The response? While many students missed their professors and classmates, they were surprised at just how well online classes worked for them—and how much they valued the experience,
Here are their thoughts:
“My professors were all incredibly accommodating, recognizing that students not only had to adjust to a new style of learning, but that many also lost their jobs, had family members with the virus, or found themselves in a difficult learning environment. On my weekly calls with [Associate] Professor Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, who I worked with through [the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program], she asked about how I was doing, both academically and emotionally, and offered me her support throughout the semester. My other professors were equally as kind and comforting. I’m so grateful for the work they did in order to make the transition a little easier.” —Blair Schaefer, an Honors College student majoring in Government and International Politics
“As time went by and I adjusted to the ‘new normal’ I was able to keep up with my assignments and various lectures…The virtual system did allow me to remain in touch with my professors and build a stronger and more professional relationship. I am grateful for the Schar School faculty - they have been always available and helpful during this time.”—Fatiha Tabibipour, a senior majoring in Government and International Politics with a concentration in International Relations and a minor in Middle East Studies
“The Schar School’s faculty made an especially strong effort to keep everyone connected and engaged. They continued to facilitate meaningful interactions, making it easier to participate in my classes and share my accomplishments with everyone at Mason. I greatly appreciate their work under these incredible circumstances and their continued dedication to student success.”—Sally Kishi, a junior Government and International Politics major
“I can say with confidence that Mason truly ensured comfort and ease for their students. All the professors were incredibly thoughtful and understanding, striving to acknowledge and respond to any concerns or misunderstandings the students faced. Although altering to online classes mid-March was overwhelming at the start, there are many advantages, a few of these being the fact that online lectures are recorded and available at any time, communication with professors was easier for many that shy away in class ,and we had more time to grasp course material.” —Meryam El Gazzah, a rising sophomore in the Government and International Politics major
“My professors and I adapted quickly. Specifically, in GOVT 445-Human Rights, [Associate Professor Jessica] Srikantia provided a unique space despite the online format. She would often bring in guest speakers over Zoom to talk about their experiences with human rights and activism. Her concern for the cohort’s well-being was profound.” —Ryan Flake, a junior Government and International Politics major
“All in all, I do miss the in-person time with professors like [Assistant] Professor Heba El-Shazli—whose lectures and dedication to each student is second to none. However, like everything in life we have to adapt to change; and the supplements of virtual discussions, recorded lectures, and Blackboard discussions have proven incredibly useful. In fact, I would not want to give away these luxuries even when we are allowed to return back to the classroom.” —Emmanuel Tetteh, a rising senior who is working on a Bachelors of Individualized Studies degree
Interested in learning more about the experience as a Schar School undergraduate student? Register for the upcoming “Get to Know the Schar School” undergraduate information session for prospective stuents on July 13.
Schar School students were surveyed with additional assistance by Professor of International Commerce and Policy J.P. Singh.