Berkeley Connect mentor Katie Bondy (top left) facilitates an online discussion with students.

With UC Berkeley classes and operations moved to the virtual realm to combat the spread of COVID-19, Berkeley Connect has transitioned to Zoom, the online tool used to host meetings and classes remotely. In the first-ever Berkeley Connect English discussion session hosted on Zoom by mentor Katie Bondy, students shared their concerns and struggles dealing with the remote approach to classes and schoolwork.

Adjusting to a whole new format can be a real challenge. Students expressed fears about losing out on graduation, attention, and interaction, while also sharing their best tips to handle these problems. For most students, this wasn’t their first experience dealing with Zoom classes since the start of the week, so most people found their way to the virtual classroom with ease. Some were sitting in dorm rooms, others in their family homes hundreds of miles away from campus, and one student even joined from a park in North Berkeley!

Bondy instructed each student to jot down their biggest obstacles that they had faced with the virtual approach to college. Many seniors expressed concern about the uncertainties around graduation, not knowing if it will even happen given the current circumstances. Another consistent issue for students revolved around staying motivated and focused in online classes. Students struggled to be present in long lecture classes or discussion sections, sometimes even forgetting to attend their Zoom classes. Other students were still adjusting to the lack of a quiet study space or having to study exclusively from home. Mental health concerns were also frequent as students dealt with negative thoughts and depression due to isolation.

Even with the general mood of dissatisfaction around the sudden and unanticipated change of pace, many students offered up great solutions and tips they were learning to combat and overcome their obstacles. One student is using alarms and notifications to remind himself of his lectures and to keep on track with his normal routine. Another student is using a timer to set specific periods of time (usually one-hour intervals) during which he will only focus on one task or assignment, helping him stay focused and motivated. Another student recounted the benefits she gained from taking time to exercise, meditate, and relax in between study periods, both to give herself a boost of energy and to break up the monotony of working all day.

This unprecedented shift away from in-person classes has been hard on everybody, but professors and students alike are learning how to take advantage of the tools that are available to support remote learning. Taking some time to write out a challenge and a solution to that challenge can be a great way to be proactive in getting your semester on track. If you come up with any tips or solutions, share them with your friends and classmates—maintaining contact and community is more important than ever and will help you stay motivated in these uncertain times.

posted by Dylan McIlvenna-Davis, Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant (Class of ’20)