Graduating Amid a Pandemic

Hi. I know it’s been awhile. Let me give you an update on my son. I’ll update you on my daughter in another post later. However, given all the confusion and negativity about forced online learning, I thought I’d share his experiences last year.

Last year my son was a high school senior. Saying it was rough would be an understatement. He got a D in his writing class at the university the first semester. Over Christmas, he got his act together and convinced us to allow him to continue by earning an A in a intensive course he took during the break. He also was recommended by our school to take a 3 credit course in process technology spring semester. It sounded interesting to him. We went through the application process and he was accepted! That made 12 credits he would be taking: the process tech, writing (again), philosophy, and acting.

All were in person classes. Most were at the university’s main campus. The process tech was at a training facility across town jointly run by the university and trade unions. He originally had an hour between it and his evening class. Then the evening class’ instructor decided to move the start of class up, so he only had half an hour. That make things quite rushed, but we got him there. He gave us access to his online university account so we could check his grades and assignment lists. That seemed to be working well the first half of the semester. He was enjoying his classes and the college experience. He had straight A’s and was feeling confident.

Then spring break hit and everything changed. First, spring break was extended by a week, then 2. Finally, we received word that campus would remain shut down for the remainder of the school year and all courses would be online. Oof! My son has done online course before and didn’t do very well.

The university did give an interesting option for final grades once classes resumed. You could request the course as count/no-count or let the grade stand. If you did count/no-count, the grade would still show up on your transcript and count toward graduation progress if you received a C or better. However, it would not count toward your GPA no matter what grade you earn, even if D or F. The other option would treat the grade as normal and count toward GPA. The deadline to request the count/no-count option was just before finals. My son decided to do the count/no count option for his philosophy course and let the other grades stand. I was pretty nervous, but it was up to him.

Now, as I said, he was a high school senior. He had already met most of the school’s graduation requirements. We were able to get the remaining ones completed with the college work he had done prior to spring break. That meant, no matter if he passed his college courses or not, he would still graduate high school.

2 weeks before the end of the semester, I checked and he had done very little of the work. The instructors had changed the assignments and format several times, so he was confused what was expected. My husband and I helped him figure it out. Going into the final week, he was still way behind. Several late nights got him mostly caught up. Emails to sympathetic instructors requesting an extension were granted, giving him a extra few days. He pulled it off and managed to pass all his courses (even earning an A in the process tech), but it was very stressful for all of us.

Along with that, he had volunteered with the Alaska Health Fair several times in the first semester to fulfill his community service requirement. He hoped to continue when they resumed in spring, but that never happened due to covid.

He was planning to attend a conference in Europe instead of his graduation ceremony. We watched nervously as the virus began spreading. As more countries became infected, the conference was cancelled. So was graduation ceremony. Plans by the school to offer a modified ceremony kept changing almost daily as the state tried to decide how best to deal with public health and public gatherings. His tassel, cap, and gown arrived. He never wore them. We picked up his diploma in private. I baked a turkey dinner. We invited his best friend and another close family friend to celebrate.

One thing that upset him more than not going to Europe or a traditional graduation was his SAT scores. He took the SAT including the essay in January. He did well, but wanted to retake the math section to try to improve his score. That never happened. Testing was cancelled too. Plus, partially because of that, the university removed the testing requirement for admission, so his test scores became irrelevant. He understands the reasoning, but is still frustrated. I recently heard the university is extending it’s waiver of admissions testing for next school year as well. They are not even holding testing events.

Moving into summer. He took the summer completely off from classes. He worked occasionally for his dad for awhile along with helping his best friend’s dad. He got a job at a local hotel this fall. He is now taking another 12 credits, all online. 3 of the 4 classes are asynchronous, meaning they don’t have a set meeting time and more flexible due dates. The only one with a set meeting time is his math. He usually works either evenings or night shift. He told his boss he needed Monday and Wednesdays off for class, jokingly adding or an hour an a half break in the middle. Well, he got his long break! He works a split shift, starting an hour earlier and ending half an hour later those days to make up for it. Now, that’s a cool boss who understand college students!

That’s how things stand with him. We got him through high school having never attended a regular K-12 class, but graduating with 58 college credits instead. He also qualified for the top 3 merit based scholarships in our state. That meant, he received a refund on his account this semester!

So, is forced online learning stressful? Yes. Can it still be done successfully? Absolutely!

Changing Plans

After a successful start to the school year, our plan for the second semester changed. Instead of retaking government/civics, our son decided to learn to fly small planes. We know the instructor teaching it through the university this spring. Since R is only 15, and the class was small, the university put up a lot of roadblocks to him signing up. We navigated out way through, and in the end the entire family is taking it! My and R officially. My husband already has his pilot certificate, but wants a refresher. That means our daughter is stuck tagging along, but she’s learning a bit too. Last Wednesday was the midterm. We’ll find out this Wednesday how everyone did.

One of the university requirements for allowing R to take the ground school class was to take a 4 credit weather course at the same time. He’s doing pretty well with that, although the online format is challenging at times due to technical difficulties with the system and/or computer. The prof is very nice and willing to help. He and R are to start meeting once a week in person after Spring Break to go over any concerns and the weeks schedule . Their first session together went well. They did the snow lab, and seemed to have an enjoyable time.

This means R is taking 8 college credits this semester. He’s also on 2 cross country ski teams, so has been skiing 2-4 hours most days with races every other week. Plus, keeping up with his math and literature classes is keeping him very busy, but he’s enjoying the challenge. He’s already been rewarded for his efforts. The high school ski season is now over. Although he wasn’t selected as a member of the school’s team that went to the state championships, he did earn a letter in cross county skiing. This is his first time lettering in a sport!

How’s your school year going? Leave me a comment to let me know.

I got A’s!

This semester I took 2 classes- kinesiology and human anatomy. From what I’ve heard, these are the hardest 2 classes in the program, especially doing it online. Well, grades are in and I got A’s in both! This means I still have a 4.0 GPA.

As my regular readers know, I am working on an associates degree as a health fitness specialist. It is an online degree. Toward the end, I will have to do an internship, but for now everything is online except reading the textbooks. I am almost halfway through the program.

Unfortunately, I’m now broke so I can’t take anymore classes until I’ve saved up more money. I am not getting any student loans or other financial aid. I’d like to get a scholarship or grant since I’m getting such good grades, but don’t have time to find one. There are several business classes that I have to take and hope to start them in the fall.

Procrastination and group projects

I have never really liked group projects.  The thought that part of your grade depends upon the work of someone else is frustrating and scary. It can be fine if everyone pulls together and does a good job on their part. However, it can be horrible if people slack off or don’t work at all.

I had a group project for one of my online classes. It was assigned 3 weeks ago. There were 4 people in the group. About 2.5 weeks ago, one of the group members got busy and posted a rough draft of the initial part for the project. I then took it and did a write up about her chart. We asked the others to do writeups about the other things we were to discuss. Nothing got done.

Last week the first woman and I completed our parts of the project. We reminded the other 2 members about getting theirs in soon enough so we can review them and include it in the final project. Nothing got done.

While we were waiting, the other woman and I decided we’d better go ahead and do the rest of the project just in case. It is due this week. We each chose one of the other parts and got busy. By Wednesday, we had a complete rough draft of the full project. Thursday (just 3 days before it is due), one of the other members sent her part in. Unfortunately, she analyzed the wrong thing. We notified her as well as the instructor of this and asked her to redo it right away. Still no word from the 4th member of the group.

Yesterday afternoon we hadn’t heard anything from the woman about redoing her part, not even acknowledging she got the messages about it being the wrong thing. Nor had we heard from the 4th member at all. Ugh! After several e-mails back and forth, the other woman and I decided to just go ahead and do a final version without either of them, since we already had a version their parts done anyway.

So I got it all finalized. She did a final proof read and this morning, it was submitted for grading. We left off the other 2 members names and notified the instructor our reasons.  2 hours later, I got an e-mail from the last team member with her part. We didn’t even know for sure she had been working on it. Talk about procrastination and lack of communication!

I wrote her back and told her it was too late, that we already completed and turned in the project without her. So this 4 person group project turned into a 2 person team project because of lack of communication and procrastination. Very frustrating, especially since this is a college course. There is no excuse for that type of procrastination in a group project at this level.

We needed their parts a week ago to properly work it into the overall project. Even early this week would probably have been OK. But the afternoon before the whole thing is due? NO! I’m sorry, that’s way too late. I’m glad we went ahead without them, but it made for a very stressful week. I really hope we get a good grade, because basically we had to do double the work, for the same number of points.