IT Teaching Resources

Lunch n Learn Student Voices

Lunch-n-Learn: Student Voices Panel

GSE students and alumni reflect on their online classroom experiences, how far they have come as online learners, and plans for the future

Building community and trust

Panelists: Victoria Doherty, Eric Saito, Glenn Davis, Meng Guo, Rosa Chavez, and Hannah D’Apice
Moderator: Karin Forssell, Director of Learning, Design, and Technology program at GSE
Recording of the session:

Central Questions: 

  • How has online learning changed your experience as a student?
  • Which instructor strategies were most effective for you?
  • What tools helped you along the way?


In the projects where you need to collaborate with others in past quarters, I found it’s a lot easier to sit down together and work on stuff together. It really helps but collaborating together on a project over Zoom remotely is a lot more difficult… I think that’s one thing to be aware of, it’s just a lot harder to actually work together on a project remotely. – Glenn Davis (08:30)

You have to go out more intentionally over Zoom… so I found, generally, we could have in-depth conversations in the material that is just as engaging and rigorous as it would have been in-person, those times in between with friends with people that I’ve just met to collaborate to chat. We have to work a lot harder about how to create those. – Eric Saito (11:30)

I would look for opportunities for partner projects, both as like a motivational thing for me as a student and also, for accountability. Because I think as a student. I just need both. – Victoria Docherty (14:45)

I really appreciate the flexibility of the schedule I have this quarter. And I think it helps a lot to relieve some mental stress as well. And some kind of life stress, like finding a job and then on to do all the stressful stuff during this time. – Meng Guo (16:10)

From the TA perspective, I really found it valuable the flexibility that we had been recording the lectures to accommodate students. I think students definitely had a variety of stability in terms of Wi-Fi at the home environment. – Hannah D’Apice (22:30)

One of my classes made these class PowerPoints and we all had our own share slides so that instead of just participating in a discussion through speaking on Zoom, we put our thoughts on our own slide on PowerPoint and then we have this curated resource and we can speak from that. – Victoria Docherty (27:20)

What has been useful is when breakout rooms are structured in a way that there’s a structure. There’s a task or some sort of agenda or whether it’s questions to discuss or whether it’s a set of tasks that the students need to complete. – Eric Saito (28:50) 

One strategy I found effective was to create a discussion dedicated discussion board for the prompts in Canvas prior to class and then prompt students to go to that as well as write down their group responses as responses to that discussion board prompt. –  Hannah D’Apice (32:35)

Instead of getting an actual grade and remarks on your code, they are holding interactive writing sessions where you can discuss your code or the questions you encounter with a section leader. Then they’ll just orally give you feedback on it and also our midterm assessment is turned into an interactive grading session. – Meng Guo (35:01)

Currently, like in this particular quarter towards the end of the quarter, a lot happened that I feel put some students under a lot of pressure to still balance being human and being a student. – Rosa Chaves (44:03)


How has online learning changed the student experience

  • Eric Saito (10:47) – Lack of natural relationships and conversations
    • People have to be more intentional in regards to their student interactions and engagements
    • Instructors and students need to put more effort into creating relationships via Zoom and online
  • Victoria Docherty (12:40) – Felt a sense of security and comfort with courses
    • The support of the professors and their communication helped to get through the quarter
    • Felt secure in regards to grades or student participation due to instructor support
  • Meng Guo (16:20) – Decreased stress levels
    • Had more freedom arranging class schedules or tasks
    • Online classes provided more time to balance personal matters
  • Rosa Chavez (19:40) – Long Zoom lecture sessions
    • Long lectures were more difficult when combined with multiple classes
    • Back-to-back meetings created a lot of stress on the student and Zoom fatigue

Instructor strategies that were most effective

  • Office hours, supporting sessions, and online forums (Meng Guo – 16:45) – are efficient methods for providing students with feedback. It also provides a safe space for students to ask questions and receive the support they need. 
  • Pacing out culminating projects throughout the quarter (Victoria Docherty – 25:30) – helps students balance course workload and decrease the amount of stress at the end of the quarter.
  • Informal conversations and check-ins (Eric Saito – 30:15) – allow for rapport building and to help ensure everyone is doing fine.
  • Scaffolding assignments and assigning small weekly assignments (Hannah D’Apice – 33:50) –  helps with an understanding of the lesson and allows room for more in-depth class discussions. 
  • Playing music at the beginning of class along with a prompt (Hannah D’Apice – 40:19) – allows for a more engaging class and aids with the transition to class and to other classes after. 
  • Being flexible with assignments (Rosa Chavez – 43:49) – making sure there are ways students can do work along the quarter and receive credit throughout.

Tools that helped throughout the quarter 

  • Glenn Davis (08:04) – I think one of the tools that we focused on we use maybe potentially overused and mature, but the breakout rooms and Zoom were something that we used a lot. You can randomize the breakout rooms. Each time you can set it to however many people you want and made it really easy to share.
  • Victoria Docherty (15:45) – Collaboration with a combination of phone, email, Google docs ended up being effective. The flexibility was important to be able to find a solution that worked.
  • Meng Guo (18:50) – The arrangement of breakout rooms and the prompts with five-minute review and reflection on own experiences and then sharing with others to build up a personal.
  • Hannah D’Apice (21:42) –  The recordings on Zoom were helpful as three-hour lectures can be draining. Allows students to go back and rewatch aspects that need revisiting.
  • Victoria Docherty (27:20) – Class PowerPoints where students share slides instead of participating in a discussion only. Students collect thoughts on individual slides on PowerPoint and then curate the resource and start discussions. 
  • Eric Saito (28:50) – When breakout rooms are structured in a way that there’s a structure, a task, or some sort of agenda. Emphasis on whether it’s questions to discuss or whether it’s a set of tasks that students need to complete.  
  • Hannah D’Apice (32:35) – Create a dedicated discussion board for the prompts directly in Canvas prior to class. Then prompt students to go to that as well as write down their group responses as responses to that discussion board prompt.