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Jessica Kenneally is an Evening MBA student living in Chicago and works as an underwriter doing healthcare business loans for Capital One. She started the MBA Program at Booth during Winter Quarter 2020, with a focus on finance, strategic management, and behavioral science. In Spring Quarter 2020, Kenneally took two remote courses, including professor Ann L. McGill’s Managing in Organizations class.

Q: What were some of your main concerns when you learned about the remote courses for Spring Quarter?

A: I really enjoyed the in-person classes and I was pretty new to Booth. So just trying to wrap my head around what the instruction would be like, how I would interact with other students, and how I would get group work done: those were some of my main concerns going in, just because it was the unknown.

Q: What were some of the things Professor McGill did in class that you thought helped?

A: Before the quarter even started, Professor McGill held some optional Zoom sessions with students, just so she could practice some of the present technology, such as doing a poll or doing the breakout rooms, calling on students to see what worked.

Those optional sessions gave me comfort to know what to expect going into her class. It also showed that she put a ton of time into learning the technology and ensuring that the classes would still be effective and interactive for students.

Q: How did the Zoom technology—chat, polls, breakout rooms—work in the class?

A: Professor McGill used multiple features to help support collaboration and discussion in her class. For example, she used randomized breakout rooms so we could interact and do activities with a variety of students. In an in-person class, you would be more restricted to the student sitting next to you, kind of just to put the groups together quickly. But I did get to work with a variety of students because of the randomized breakout rooms, so that was good to have exposure and interaction with many more students that way.

Both of my professors took the time to apply the course material to current events, which helped connect what we were learning to everything that was going on in the world, which is one of my favorite things about Booth.”

— Jessica Kenneally

Q: How would you compare the learning experience in a remote class to an in-person class?

A: I thought that I got just as much learning out of the classes. Both of my professors took the time to apply the course material to current events, which helped connect what we were learning to everything that was going on in the world, which is one of my favorite things about Booth. Both classes also had good class participation—people raising their hands, providing their thoughts.

The in-person connections—that you get organically through sitting with students or talking during breaks or before or after class, that kind of organic connection to students and community—was a little bit lacking, but the material was definitely still there.

Q: What were some advantages or disadvantages to the remote format to you?

A: One of the advantages was the professors would record the Zoom classes and post them to Canvas [the school’s learning management system] after the class. That made it easy for me to go back and review a section of class that I might’ve missed or needed a second explanation for. That was really helpful.

One disadvantage is that I’m working from home, sitting at my computer for nine or 10 hours, and then I have to sit at that same computer for another three hours. It’s a harder to be present, and I like breaking up the day going to work, and then going to school. That has definitely been a transition—to remind myself to stay present and focused.

Q: Did you learn any tricks along the way about how to stay more present during Zoom classes?

A: Definitely getting a good desk chair was important. Putting my cell phone on the other side of the room or out of sight. Trying to have the Zoom class in a full screen so I wasn't tempted to check emails or wasn’t distracted by anything else. I am someone in class who puts away all of my technology in in-person classes. I take notes by hand, just so I can really absorb. I do think that there’s more distraction in the Zoom classes.

Q: We will be in this remote-learning environment during Autumn Quarter 2020, at least in a hybrid model. Any thoughts on how to get the most out of it, for incoming students?

A: My advice would be to do research on the classes that you want to take. Look at the syllabus, and ask about the professors. I was extremely lucky that both of the classes I took last quarter had amazing professors, and had a course design that embraced the online Zoom format. Just do the research because there are some really great classes that translate well to online.

 

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