Let’s Get Digital, Digital!

Sophia Chau, Student Life Editor

As students progress in their high school careers and college application time nears, many upperclassmen choose to take some of their required courses off-campus during the summer. This allows students to free their fall schedules, take on a greater number of electives, and juggle more interesting extracurriculars.

Every summer, LASA students can elect to take five week long courses through Austin Community College (ACC). The program offers them the chance to take certain classes like U.S. History, Government or Economics and gain the credits they need to graduate without having to take the class during the school year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, all courses this year were done online in a modified version of regular classes.

Students, like junior Zack Disler, attended lectures via a live video conference or watched pre-recorded lectures online. To do this, Disler’s teacher used a popular video conference program called Zoom.

“The teacher would usually share her screen with a powerpoint, and she’ll start going through the curriculum, talking about topics, like the Civil War or the Cold War, or things like that,” Disler said. “Then, she finishes up, asks for any questions, and then class would be over.”

After class, students completed any extra material assigned to them using a program called Blackboard. According to incoming senior Madelyn Madiedo, who took both Government and Economics, Blackboard is very similar to BLEND, the program used by many schools in the Austin Independent School District.

“It’s kind of like BLEND, but for ACC, so you can see all of your courses, and then if the teacher posts an announcement or posts an assignment, you do the whole thing in there,” Madiedo said.

Throughout the course, students took assessments on the material they had learned. In Disler’s U.S. History course, the assessments were completely open-note.

“The way my class does it is that our teacher gives us a list of short answer questions, and we use our notes and lecture notes to answer them,” Disler said. “It’s open book, since the teacher can’t really stop us from reading our notes.”

Incoming junior Amanda Li, who took U.S. History online through ACC, described the course as doable due to most of the exams being open-note. However, to Li, the difficulty of the class mostly rests on which teacher you get.

“Our professor kind of grades harshly so I think it depends on the professor you have,” Li said. “I have another friend with a different professor and she tells me that everything is multiple choice and open note and it’s so easy, but my professor requires some effort, but not as much as some other professors who require that their students write full page essays.”

According to Li, the class being held virtually also had some benefits. Online courses are more flexible than in-person ones.

“I think it’s also good that since it’s over Zoom, and she can record the lectures, [so] if you zone out, like I do sometimes, you can just go back into the recording and find what you missed,” Li said.

As for whether or not the course was good, Li said that she would recommend the course to other students who are more into learning about the facts rather than going through documents. Both Madiedo and Disler had overall good impressions of their courses as well.

“I’d describe it as pretty relaxed, but you have to be consistent with it,” Disler said. “It’s easy to fall behind if you decide to sleep-in one day and miss the lecture, so I think it’s easy as long as you’re willing to be consistent and apply yourself to the class.”

One thing that Madiedo misses, however, is the regular interaction you would get with other students in an in-person class. If given the choice and the lack of a pandemic, Madiedo would have opted for an in-person experience.

“A bunch of people in the class had either graduated or were adults, which was kind of weird,” Madiedo said. “I think it would have been interesting to actually go to the class and then just meet the people.”

According to Disler, virtual classes can also be harder for certain people. Interactions with other students are very minimal when taking a virtual course.

“There’s less opportunity for interacting with the other students in the class, so it feels more impersonal, in a way,” Disler said. “It makes collaborating a little tougher, so if you’re someone who really likes to work with other people, then that can make it harder.”

Madiedo took both the Government and Economics course at the same time. Nevertheless, Madiedo still described the courses as relatively easy.

“I thought it was pretty easy, and it wasn’t that difficult, and the workload wasn’t terrible because you have all week to do most of the stuff,” Madiedo said. “Definitely easier than the LASA courses.”