Arrunava Moondra ’22 has used Zoom before. But from his home in Singapore, Moondra told the News that logging into his online classes this semester seems particularly concerning — especially since he’s 12 hours ahead of and nearly 10,000 miles away from the Elm City.
“The earliest I would finish classes for the day would be 2:30 a.m., and three days of the week, I would have to be up till 4:00 a.m.,” Moondra wrote in an email.
Due to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, Yale announced over spring break that students must leave campus and finish the semester’s coursework using online learning tools such as Zoom, a video conferencing software. But at a university with undergraduates from over 100 countries, the shift to online instruction — which begins on Monday — poses challenges for students like Moondra, who plan to log into their classes at odd nighttime or early morning hours. In interviews with the News, nine students said that their distance from the Elm City presents major challenges for their academic futures this semester.
Moondra told the News he had considered adhering to Eastern Daylight Time while in Singapore to be able to attend his courses in real time. That way, his day-to-day life would have essentially flipped: mornings for bed; night would be day.
“Obviously, this has its own practical challenges,” he added. Professors have made accommodations for him, he explained, like rescheduling meetings and recording lectures — measures that he’s grateful for, he wrote.
According to guidance on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences webpage, classes that require “fully synchronous participation” — like many seminars and language courses — must be offered at their regularly scheduled times.
FAS Dean of Undergraduate Education Pamela Schirmeister told the News in an email that her team is encouraging instructors to offer asynchronous options — class designs that do not require a simultaneous meeting — “whenever possible.” Small courses can be rescheduled, according to the FAS webpage, but only if all students agree. “If even one student has a conflict, the original time should be honored,” the guidance states.
For some, like Omar Chishti ’22, hardships extend beyond class times.
Chishti, who lives in Dubai, explained that Dubai’s national government has barred its residents from accessing Zoom. But even if he were able to video-conference into his classes, the time difference could further complicate things. An afternoon lecture in New England would be, for Christi, a late-night affair.
Still, faculty members are taking steps to reduce this burden.
According to emails reviewed by the News, art faculty members have proposed alternate assignments, and professors less capable with online video conference software plan to shift to email and phone calls for their teaching.
In the case of Directed Studies, professors have begun recording their lectures. According to an email sent to Directed Studies students obtained by the News, students who may not be able to tune into online meetings would not be penalized “in any way, shape or form.”
“Any anxieties you may have had about the quality of your papers, your seminar contributions, your speed of reading? Forget them,” Directed Studies DUS Katja Lindskog wrote to the cohort. “They don’t matter right now, and they won’t matter for a long, long while yet.”
Director of Undergraduate Studies of Comparative Literature Ayesha Ramachandran GRD ’08 said she is urging her colleagues to consider rethinking the way their classes and assignments are run. Video conferencing through Zoom is “ridiculous,” she said. Students have a range of home situations, and some students may have less — not more — time to complete their assignments.
“It’s not at all clear that they will, in fact, be in a position to put in the focus and the work that they would if they were on campus,” Ramachandran said.
Students interviewed by the News have wondered aloud how that will be possible.
“A language class that meets at 9:25 every morning East Coast time may be somewhat unreasonable for someone who’s international or even West Coast,” said Aadit Vyas ’20. “6 a.m. is pretty tough.”
Professor Mick Hunter, the DUS for East Asian Languages and Literature, wrote in an email to the News last Monday that the department’s language instructors are still “in the process of learning Zoom and figuring out best practices for online teaching.”
“We’ll know much more next week after we’ve had a chance to try it out,” he wrote.
Rose Horowitch contributed reporting.
Matt Kristoffersen | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, March 23: This article has been updated to accurately reflect Moondra’s gender pronouns. A previous version also referred to Omar Chishti as Omar Christi.