Student Spotlight: Christopher Calley ’20 MPA

On March 12, in response to the growing spread of the coronavirus, President Paxson announced that for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, Brown classes would take place remotely. Classes were canceled for the week of March 16 to enable students living on campus or in Brown-owned properties to pack and leave and to give faculty time to transition their courses to remote learning.

At Watson, we wanted to know how the transition was going. Below, Christopher Calley ’20 MPA describes his experience.  

Originally from: 

Seaside, California

Writing from: 

Providence, Rhode Island

What has been the biggest challenge for you?

The biggest challenge of online classes is the lack of collaboration and accountability that normally comes from working with classmates in person. Even though classwork is generally independent, there was shared motivation and camaraderie in discussing upcoming assignments as students filed in together and waited for class to start. There was always a slight competitive edge in preparation for an exam, and people would share study methods and discuss setting time aside.

For group work now, we schedule meetings and get together, but before, these groups would form naturally at the end of class. You might go out for something to eat and work would naturally flow with it. Now it’s more intentional: we all exist as individual islands and can still reach out to each other—and we do, but it lacks the same sense of togetherness. 

Virtual learning itself has gone smoothly, and our professors have adapted with varying styles of synchronous and asynchronous learning. I have heard from other students it's more difficult to focus, but for me, this has not been the case.  

Has there been a pleasant surprise, a positive you didn’t anticipate?   

As an early riser, I find asynchronous learning tremendously useful. My most productive hours have always been before class started, and keeping my energy high during class was a constant process, not to mention the frequent desire to stand up and stretch. I am sure this fact applies to my classmates who would prefer to attend classes at night as well—it suits all of our schedules perfectly. 

What is an even more pleasant surprise is how responsive professors and TAs are. In this world where we are all seemingly online all the time, I find I get responses to questions and emails far sooner than I used to. I also think it has created a more casual air about virtual communication, making it more natural. This relieves some of the stress and anxiety when sending an email to a professor. It makes it feel more like you are reaching out to a mentor in a friendly manner. 

Chris is a student in Eric Patashnik’s Management and Implementation in Public and Nonprofit Organizations course.