After just three weeks in Buenos Aires this spring, Sky Dedrick and her classmates had to pack up and return to the US to finish the remainder of the semester remotely. Find out more about her transition to virtual learning and her experience with Austral University.
Taking classes in Buenos Aires was a really cool learning experience because the classes were small which allowed for a lot of interactions between students and professors. Additionally, classes were generally a mix of students from CAPA and other international exchange students and it was fun and interesting getting to know people from all over the globe.
Walking around La Boca.
Unfortunately, on Friday, March 12, less than three weeks into the program, CAPA was forced to suspend the in-country portion of my study abroad program in Buenos Aires due to policies enacted by the Argentine government in reaction to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. In the two weeks that followed, students were given time off while professors adapted their coursework for online learning. Just before classes started, Austral University faculty held a virtual session to discuss how classes would be conducted and their expectations of students. We were informed that classes would be held live over Zoom, every class would have an Austral faculty moderator, and students should have their cameras on at all times. While at first I dreaded the camera requirement, I grew to appreciate seeing the faces of my peers during class.
Austral University's Virtual Campus.
I had my first Zoom class at 8 AM ET. In Buenos Aires the class was held at 9 AM, but due to time difference I had to log on an hour earlier. This was not horrible for me as I live on the east coast of the US. The European students had most of their classes in the evening. There was one student who had to log on at 5 AM because she lives on the west coast of the US. For the first week or so there was a period of adjustment to virtual learning, but after that classes generally ran smoothly. Whenever problems did arise such as internet connectivity issues, the professor would just email students the assignments to be completed by the time class normally would have ended.
The Virtual Campus home page.
Most of my courses seemed to have the same content that we would have covered in person. However, the class that required the most adjustment was Exploring the Global City: Buenos Aires. A large part of the class was supposed to be spent walking around Buenos Aires and conducting field studies. This was impossible to achieve virtually, so the class used multiple Coursera courses to supplement the class assignments and lectures. Coursera is an online platform with many courses from various topics that Austral University provided us access to for free.
Midterms and final exams were conducted virtually, of course. Every professor had a different way of administering the tests and each test was a different form. Some required that cameras be kept on, others did not. Some used Austral University’s Virtual Campus, others used email. Some were research papers, some were short answer questions, and others were fill-in-the-blank.
Overall, pretty much everyone - professors and students alike - would have preferred to have classes in person. But since this was an impossibility because of the coronavirus, Zoom provided the next best option. The majority of the professors did their best to accommodate the peculiar circumstances and tried to make the virtual classes as similar as possible to how they would normally be held. Luckily, they did a great job maintaining the interactive environment just as it would have been in person, and I still had the opportunity to work with international students and professors.
Sky Dedrick is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An Operations and Information Management and Spanish major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
Sky's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.