First day of classes: Webb students embark on a new online learning adventure

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Laura Haushalter

The Webb Canyon Chronicle staff enjoys B block together live on zoom during the first day of school.

1175 West Baseline Road is deserted. No students run around the campus; no sound of laughter echoes in Price Dining Hall; and the cheers from the Welcome Back Assembly are absent, along with an empty Crossroads at the middle of an almost silent campus. While all the usual signs of the start of the academic year are missing, Webb’s spirit is vibrant online, as students begin their school year with virtual classes. 

With students located across the world during the pandemic, the academic day was bifurcated to accommodate different time zones—the regular classes in the day sorted by A to G blocks and live academic sessions in the California evening. On the first daystudents of both schedules were filled with excitement and a hopeful outlook for the future 

“I thought the first day of class was a lot more fun than I expected,” said Jimmy Feng (‘21). “It went really well. It was nice to see the teachers after a long time, and it was good to meet everyone again. I was glad that the teachers were all very understanding and did not put too much pressure on us, given that we spend most of our time familiarizing ourselves with canvas and the new learning schedule. In Biotechnology, for example, we were given a [websitelink to learn through, which was really fun. It was just a great way to start the school year.” 

This remote learning will continue for the first six weeks of school, utilizing Zoom and Canvas as online learning platforms. For students within 4 hours of Pacific Daylight Timeacademic classes take place during the day. Students across other time zones, mostly eastern Asia, however, have a different schedule. Classes begin in their morning each day, with personalized schedules and plans for each week. 

Even though students are not able to interact in person, they showed great excitement on their first day back for the new school year, especially new members to the community. 

“I think I am most excited about all the different classes I have. I am actually excited about the subjects,” said Priscilla Centeno (’24). “At my old school, we would just read a lot of textbooks but already in my Zoom today, it was very discussion based, and I know we will continue doing that in the future. I am really excited because I like debating and talking.” 

“The classes were much more fun and exciting than I thought!” said Rita Wang (’24). “We had some fun games and breakout rooms during our biology class, and it’s the first time I felt that breakout rooms were helpful for us to really get to know each other.” 

Despite not being in person, the school day still provided opportunities for Webb students to learn and explore.  

“We did an activity in Freshman Seminar where we basically had to choose an object that represented our mindset during online school last spring,” said Aiperi Bush (‘24). “It was definitely interesting to think about it [spring of 2020] again and listen to my classmates’ perspectives.” 

Even though students located outside of the United States are not able to join synchronous classes with their friends and classmates elsewhere, they are still actively engaging in live academic sessions every day. 

“As an asynchronous student, I really appreciate how Webb has evening class planned for us in our morning,” said Jimmy. “I know a lot of my friends in college or high school have to stay up for their classes, and I feel really lucky as a Webb student. I am so grateful that Webb was so considerate for us …The evening schedule is really nice. It is a good way to get ahead and be on top of my work.” 

“My first day of school was pretty nice.” said Jasmine Wan (’23). “As a rising sophomore, I was more ready than last year even if it was distance learning. Evening sessions are really helpful to me, as they provide an opportunity for me to meet with teachers as well as students so that we can discuss together. It’s also a great chance to keep up with schoolwork and to get prepared for in person classes.” 

The evening academic sessions for students provided them with an equal opportunity to participate and engage in the classroom. They create an interactive atmosphere for students to feel connected psychologically, especially for new students who had limited in-person contact with their classmates and teachers. 

“Compared with recorded lectures, live evening sessions were definitely helpful for us international students.” said Rita. “Live sessions make me feel like I’m really participating in classes rather than staying alone, starting my high school life and dealing with all this new stuff at home. For me, the most important thing is to feel surrounded by my teachers and classmates as a new student, and I really appreciate our teacher’s efforts to introduce Canvas to us and make us less anxious about learning online.” 

This new schedule is a modification of the normal 80 mins of class and the rotating blocks. Unlike the schedule from spring semester in 2020 classes are even shorter and the blocks do not change days or times. 

“I wish we had a rotating (block) schedule online,” said Kennedy Becher (‘21). “I need a daily change and being on zoom without changing the classes is boring.” 
 Even with the positive parts of online learning, students do miss being inperson. They miss the places they used to hang out. In particular, Emma Holliday (‘22misses the camaraderie of hanging out in the library with people she does not normally have classes with.  

“I would have loved to see a zoom link for the library,” said Emma.  “I miss seeing the faces and smiles of people I don’t talk to regularly or have classes with and I think this would allow me to connect with more people. 

Despite the changes in ways of learning, students are finding hope amidst the pandemic. Creativity as well as Unbounded Thinking come into play, fueling students and faculty members with new ideas for learning online. 

“I like the idea that the teachers do believe that we didn’t lose anything going online but encouraged us to stay hopeful and explore new ways of learning,” said Jimmy. “I feel really hopeful.” 

“I’m looking forward to all the cool and innovative online activities and events we will be able to come up with,” said Sneha Jindal (’21). 

As students adapt to the personalized learning plan for module 1 of the year, there are many things to look forward to, especially when students finally return to campus. For now, staying healthy and making the most out of learning online is the best students can do. 

In the meantime, students have set up clear goals for the new school year, ready to turn ideas into actions. 

“My goals are just to do my best in academics, sports and outside-of-school activities,” said Jasmine. “I’m also trying to be productive by finishing homework the day it is assigned. Since the workload becomes heavier and I have to handle schoolwork and my own activities, time management is something I want to improve in my sophomore year.” 

“One of my most important goals for my freshmen year is to jump out of my comfort zone and try something new,” said Rita. “I [am] eager to learn to express myself, to communicate with others and to turn to others for help.” 

Although the current Webb campus has been replaced by Canvas during early September, each Webb student’s individual Zoom rooms are now filled with social interactions, creativity, and the hope to embark on another journey with the rest of the community. Students are busy adapting to the new rigorous learning schedule every day while relishing the time “seeing” their teachers and friends.