During the 2023 week of Thanksgiving, IMSA will be trying something new. The administration has decided to try Virtual Engagement Days on Monday, November 20, and Tuesday, November 21. Many note the use of “Engagement” rather than “Learning.” The idea was that this would allow students to return home before Thanksgiving, but still have the opportunity to engage academically.
So what’s going on?
In the Titan Tuesday Newsletters, detail was provided about what is supposed to be happening during these new Virtual Engagement Days:
- They will not be regular, full days via Zoom
- Each faculty member will have a plan which may or may not include synchronous meetings via Zoom
- Assignments and assessments may be given and/or due on Virtual Engagement Days
- If a student cannot participate in any synchronous meetings, the family will still be required to contact the Attendance Office
- Faculty and Academic Support will communicate any synchronous meetings no later than Friday, November 17, 2023
- The B-Day (Monday) and C-Day (Tuesday) schedules will be utilized so that synchronous meetings will not create conflict
- Faculty may still schedule synchronous meetings for office hours or drop-in outside of scheduled class time
But what’s actually happening?
Despite the opportunity for teachers to schedule synchronous meetings to continue teaching their course as they have in the past, most teachers aren’t doing so. In fact, for many students, there are no classes at all to meet for. Many of the teachers are available throughout the day in a Zoom link to provide academic support to students needing extra help or wanting to review topics before finals.
In essence, Virtual Engagement Days are being approached as a sort of full-day Support and Engagement module. After all, they aren’t Virtual Learning Days, they are Virtual Engagement Days. Useful? We will see.
What are people thinking prior to Virtual Engagement Days?
Students are, in one word, confused. What classes do we meet for? What do we have to do? Do we have a problem set this week? Will our essays finally get graded? Why even have school if none of the teachers are even hosting meetings?
Despite the abundance of confusion circulating the Virtual Engagement Days, many students are excited. Tatiana Ward (’26) says that she has no classes that are meeting and that these days will basically be days off. However, if courses were to resume at the same difficulty level on Monday and Tuesday, she would “prefer just to be in person.”
Many faculty members hold a different perspective, though. For instance, Dr. Peter Dong doesn’t know exactly what to think of these Virtual Engagement Days. After experiencing teaching at IMSA over Zoom during COVID, he notes that students are not nearly as productive over Zoom as in-person and therefore would likely prefer in-person learning.
Similarly, those who have experienced IMSA online greatly favor just staying in person these days. Alumnus Aaron Fanjoy (’21) experienced the lack of productivity over Zoom during COVID-19 that Dr. Dong described. When told about the brand new Virtual Engagement Days, he compared going to school on Monday and Tuesday in his time at IMSA to later being stuck being virtual every day. Because of this, he was greatly in favor of just staying in school rather than engaging from home.
On Monday, November 20, and Tuesday, November 21, 2023, IMSA will be experiencing Virtual Engagement Days for the first time. Despite the confusion and mixed reactions, we will be engaging from the safety of our beds whether or not that includes synchronous meetings or taking a nap.