After COVID-19 infection rates surged in December, the College announced the decision to hold Wintersession courses remotely, leaving students to reconsider their plans less than 2 weeks before they began.
Wintersession 2022 was originally set to host four intensive language classes: Arabic, Italian, German and Russian. The courses over the course of three weeks aimed to jumpstart students’ study of the languages. Shortly after the announcement, RUSS 101 was canceled after careful consideration over concerns of teaching efficacy. In an email sent to students who had enrolled in the course, Professor Thomas Hodge explained that class materials are “deeply analogue” and that it was “simply not possible” to adapt them for a digital environment.
As the Russian department is the only language that grants academic credits for 101 without subsequently taking 102, students enrolled in RUSS 101 had to reconsider their academic plan for the winter. This caused some students frustration.
“I need the last credit to officially graduate,” Alex Delgadillo ’21 said. “I felt a great sense of defeat as I was held back for no reason.”
Credit issues were said to be resolved through the Academic Review Board. In communication with Professor Hodge, students who wanted to receive credit with 101 worked with their class deans for a petition to the Academic Review Board. He said he would recommend to the Board to grant petitions under the trying circumstances.
Wintersession started remotely on January 3, 2022, as scheduled. Faculty, teaching assistants and students reported an overall satisfactory experience during the three-week period. Kexin Zhao ’24 found the remote setting to be more helpful than anticipated. When studying Arabic pronunciation, the absence of masks enabled better visualization of articulations of the Arabic alphabet.
“Professor [Daniel] Zitnick exaggerates his lips movement and it was constructive for us to be proficient in pronouncing Arabic words correctly,” she said.
Acknowledging the hardship of compressing a semester’s worth of material into three weeks, professors utilized interactive technology, creative assignments and additional tutoring support. Professor Zitnick said he would assign the class to work on a short, creative project or assignment during a 90 minute break: for instance, watching a music video, making a family tree or a Google Jamboard with a partner.
For German, the class used the eTextbook “MindTap for Welten” to deliver a learner-centered experience with functions like practice quizzes and taking notes directly on the platform. Delgadillo, who later enrolled in GER 101, complimented the interactiveness and conduciveness to learning of the eTextbook. She also emphasized her appreciation for the tutoring session held by the teaching assistant Olivia Davis ’22.
“They are absorbing all that information so quickly,” Davis said. “I came up with exercises and at the same time reviewed some blind spots for myself.”
Despite efforts to alleviate students’ burden to learn intensively, Wintersession 2022 was a challenge for everyone. Delgadillo stressed the demanding reality of GER 101 which had 6 tests in total. Oftentimes a chapter test was on Wednesday, even though the chapter had just started on Monday.
The drawbacks of Zoom and the lack of physical interaction disrupted teaching as well. Professor Zitnick recalled, “In a classroom, you can hear the students repeating back to you and I can easily point out the mistakes. But with Zoom, everyone’s voices echo and it was difficult to hear clearly.”
Olivia Davis ’22 felt a disconnect over Zoom compared to last semester where students always interacted with her and each other.
Wintersession 2022 concluded on January 21, 2022.