In the new online world, we are all forced to confront challenges that we could never have anticipated. However, this does not mean that we have to struggle independently. This is especially true for students at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). With help from undergraduate resources, students can connect with faculty and each other to maximize their success in this learning environment.
As UCI went fully remote in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trace Yulie, Director of the Learning and Academic Resource Center (LARC), admits that she wasn’t fully prepared for the challenges she would encounter. Like many others, it would take time and first-hand experience to understand just how taxing the new virtual world would be. “At first I thought, oh, this will be fun. I’ll be at home,” she recalls, “I didn’t anticipate it being so tiring.”
One of the biggest struggles that Trace has encountered while adjusting to a remote working environment is figuring how to create a daily routine that is sustainable and healthy. Trace explains, “It was a big transition. I’m very accustomed to getting up in the morning, cycling to work, greeting my coworkers, and then interacting with students one-on-one. So it was kind of unusual to shift away from that into a lot of online interaction.”
As Trace manages her personal challenges and develops strategies to cope with these issues, it has given her more insight into what many UCI students are dealing with as well. “We’re all trying to stay motivated, but it’s very easy to get distracted and it’s a little bit overwhelming,” she relates.
Trace’s own college experience also gives her a unique understanding of what students are going through: “I have a lot of empathy for them because I lived at home for a lot of the time when I was a college student, and I was the first person in my family to go to college. Sometimes parents don’t always understand how much time and energy it takes.”
To offer UCI students the support, resources, and tools they need to adapt to their new learning environment, Trace and the team at the LARC have been working to make their services more accessible to students during these unprecedented times.
“Our first priority was getting all of the LARC programming online quickly for students,” she explains. Additionally, she has been working closely with undergraduate tutorial leaders to understand their concerns, shape their plans, and train them on how to help the students that attend their tutorial sessions.
While adjusting LARC services to function in a remote world is tricky, Trace says that their success depends on being more proactive and willing to jump in and make necessary changes. “We’re definitely doing things differently,” she affirms, “It’s about doing things more intentionally and then adapting. If we see a problem, then we try to figure out how to solve that problem together.”
One of the team’s top priorities is distributing important information about their programs to students so they are more aware of their opportunities. LARC is also sharing tips and strategies to help students study and be successful in this new environment. Finally, the team is acting as a conduit to help students get the support they need.
As Trace puts it, “We want to make sure that students have access to equipment and internet access. We can’t provide those directly, but we can connect them with other campus resources so they can have adequate access on a technological level.”
The messaging coming out of the LARC has also changed in response to COVID-19. More than anything, Trace and the LARC staff want to remind students that it’s okay if they are having a hard time.
She explains, “Whether it’s staff talking directly to students or staff communicating to our undergraduate leaders, we’re trying to share the message that your best might just be what’s good enough for you right now.” Rather than pushing forward aimlessly, the LARC team encourages students to check in with themselves, evaluate their stress levels, and develop strategies for managing their stress so they can be more successful academically.
Even with the changes that come with moving services online, LARC’s core mission and values remain the same. LARC is still committed to advancing student academic success through proven learning strategies, peer-to-peer collaboration, and leadership development.
Trace also mentions that the concept of “leveling the playing field” continues to be a guiding principle of LARC:
The idea of leveling the playing field has always been part of LARC’s mission, but now it might be more important than ever. It’s the idea that some students come to the institution underserved upon their admission. For instance, they might have been at schools with fewer resources to help them achieve. We want to make sure that even these students, who might be at a disadvantage at the university, have plenty of opportunities to grow and learn and achieve at the same rate and level as their peers. And that’s what we mean by leveling the playing field.
To ensure that UCI students have the academic support that they need, LARC is offering the following services throughout Spring Quarter, 2020 and Summer Session, 2020:
- LARC Tutorials: LARC tutorials will be conducted in regularly scheduled sessions via Zoom and Canvas. LARC Tutorial sessions will continue to incorporate fun study tools, interactive activities, and opportunities for students to collaborate with their peers. LARC leaders will be present to offer assistance as students transition to this new instruction style. Students can view and enroll in LARC tutorials here.
- LARC Academic Learning Skills Workshops and Consultations: Students with contract requirements will be able to meet one-on-one with LARC staff via Zoom. Consultations will be available through the UCI Appointments page, just as before. After making an appointment, students will be provided Zoom links for their scheduled time slots. Proof of attendance will be provided electronically.
- LARC After Dark: Spring drop-in services are still free and will be available through Zoom at regularly scheduled times. Times will be posted on the LARC website’s main page here.
- Sponsorships for Tutorials: Student Success Initiatives will continue to provide LARC sponsorships for eligible students. Please contact Adeeva Myer (firstname.lastname@example.org) at SSI for more information.
- Support for Online Learners: To support students’ success as they transition to online learning, the LARC is offering helpful resources and strategies via their Study Tips page, Facebook, Twitter, and direct email outreach.
By adjusting LARC’s student services and resources, Trace and her team are creating much-needed opportunities for collaboration and engagement. Trace explains, “It comes down to thinking about different ways to help our students feel like part of the program and part of the process. We want to make sure that students have the strategies they need to be successful.”