Deema Suleiman is a rising sophomore in the Honors Program who took Colloquium 1030 with Professor Elizabeth Gross in the Spring of 2020. She is majoring in biochemistry and is involved in the Tulane University Middle Eastern Union and the Muslim Student Association. We invited Deema to share her experience transitioning from in-person to online learning and how these unforeseen circumstances have made her feel more grateful for her peers and professors.
The outbreak of the coronavirus resulted in the need to get all students off the Tulane campus in order to decrease the spread of the virus and maintain everyone’s safety and health. With the closing of campus, students and professors had no choice but to turn to online-based learning to finish the semester. One of the classes I was attending during that time is Honors Colloquium 1030: The Quest for Answers, a class that is taught by Elizabeth Gross with the Honors Program and one that is heavily reliant on discussion. Every week, we would do our assigned readings and come together to talk about the pieces, listening to each other’s opinions working through the complicated texts together. Some of the readings included The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil, and The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. We actively relied on our ability to meet up and discuss in order to understand and appreciate these readings, so I was a little bit scared when I found out we had to give that up.
In general, moving to online classes made me extremely stressed and worried, but especially with Colloquium 1030. It was not like a science class; the professor couldn’t lecture over zoom for an hour and then assign us textbook readings. For a discussion-heavy class, going online was in no way optimal. I was upset to stop attending the class in person because I thoroughly enjoyed it; it was one of the few classes that I had this semester that gave me the opportunity to voice my ideas and opinions while also hearing those of my fellow classmates. It was also very enriching hearing the perspectives of people that had drastically different backgrounds than mine. I was very grateful that the professor made the in-person space safe, and I felt comfortable participating and being part of the conversation.
With remote learning, I was concerned that we would no longer be able to have great conversations like we once had, and instead, we would be forced into writing papers about our readings. I was pleasantly surprised as to what the reality actually was.
While it wasn’t exactly like a classroom experience, our online discussions were surprisingly both fun and enriching. There were definitely times when things were a little difficult and awkward like when two people spoke at the same time or when someone spoke while they were muted, but everyone was very understanding and supportive which is exactly what we needed at this time. It’s also important to me to note the generosity and understanding of my wonderful professor. Professor Gross was nothing but helpful throughout this very stressful time. She tried to keep things as normal for us as possible in class; we still had weekly readings, discussion leaders, and most importantly, discussions. These were constants that I drastically need in this everchanging time. She also was very understanding and provided us with options related to the previously planned assignments which I was grateful for because I was concerned about final exams during that time.
This experience has taught me to be grateful for a lot of things; I am grateful for my professors, my classmates, and face to face conversations which are things that I have taken for granted. Now, more than ever, I feel how blessed I am to be able to go to school, sit in a classroom and interact with my peers and professors; I can’t wait for the day I get to step back on campus and greet the community that I have come to see as family.