Studying in the age of Covid

Overseas-education | Crystal Wu 19 Oct 2021

We have been in this pandemic for over a year and a half – which is the entirety of Richard Cheung’s undergraduate life.

“I actually started school online,” recalled Cheung, who had his new student orientation, opening ceremony, and his first day of class all virtually.

He was living with relatives in Vancouver for the first few months of his university until he was able to head back to Stanford in January this year. “So I feel like I have experienced the whole spectrum of what Covid education could look like and could be.”

He found Stanford’s online learning experience was done very well. All lectures were recorded so students could catch up in their own time.

“That way, you were not left out because you were in a different time zone or a different country.”

Another advantage for Cheung was that he could watch the lectures on double speed. “That halved the time I spent watching lectures, which was something that a lot of us learnt to do throughout the pandemic.”

However, discussion sections were set in real-time so students had to log on at a particular time.

“That was actually a good thing because watching lectures by myself felt like watching Youtube videos and that was the education I was receiving,” he said.

“But discussion sessions are when you got to interact with people, and I made friends that way.”

For course assessments, different universities have different levels of strictness and supervision. In Stanford, however, Cheung’s assessments turned open book – “because it is really hard to know whether you cheated or not.”

But cheating is not something Stanford expects of its students – it has an Honor Code policy which students are required to sign.

Students had higher flexibility doing assessments. “We could do them any time in a 72-hour window, let’s say. So we would pick one or two hours, and when we start the assessment. At the end, it would log everything to the system and send it over to our professors.”

Socializing plays a big part in university life, and Cheung found that aspect to be “limiting.”

As a violinist with the Stanford Orchestra, Cheung’s experience in Covid was to record himself playing and putting all the clips together. Such experience made him realize that not everything could be done online.

“One thing I really appreciated was that a lot of these clubs and societies turned more towards community building, more on a focus of getting to know each other, even if it was just basic Zoom calls and study sessions. There was a big focus on community and staying connected which helped in onboarding me to all these different clubs.”

Being on campus during the pandemic also created a tight-knit community as there are a lot fewer people and fewer happenings in the university.

“I thought that Covid would pull people apart, but ironically, being on campus while Covid was happening and while we still have online classes, it brought me together with some really close friends, many of whom I still hang out with every day.

“Studying in the age of Covid is interesting. It is tempting to think about all the things that we missed out on because our classes were moved online and we weren’t able to experience proper campus life. However, I would like to think that all we have had is a different experience, and that is what makes our cohort unique.”

Search Archive

Advanced Search
December 2021

Today's Standard