As of March 19, all BU events and classes were either canceled or moved to an online format because of the coronavirus. Now, the transition to distance learning during the latter half of the spring semester has extended into the summer.
Certain academic programs, such as the 2020 Summer Research Immersion (SRI) program, have announced their transition to distance learning this summer. The SRI program is dedicated to providing BU students with research experience in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Students enrolled in this summer program typically work alongside faculty to learn research techniques and acquire skills necessary to solve research problems.
Serena Feldman, a junior double-majoring in biology and English, is a former participant in the 2019 SRI program. In the program, Feldman conducted research in ecological genetics that focused on how ecological factors influence the evolutionary trajectory of populations.
Feldman said she feels distance learning takes away from the hands-on laboratory component of SRI.
“I learned so much from being in a research laboratory and practicing research techniques,” Feldman said. “I can’t see how distance learning can replicate that.”
Sam Atkin, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, is also a former SRI student. He said he feels a similar way.
“I believe the lab instruction portion of the class will be gutted and a greater emphasis placed on data work and science literacy,” Atkin said.
Lua Lopez Perez, a research assistant professor in the First-year Research Immersion (FRI) program, will be teaching the ecological genetics stream that is offered for the 2020 SRI program. Lopez Perez says she feels that distance learning will be a great opportunity to test new teaching approaches.
“The online format [of] the class will be completely centered in data analysis and result interpretation which are both a pivotal aspect of research,” Lopez Perez said. “This kind of analysis is normally not something students are exposed to during their undergrad and having this skill will help them to find a research position in a lab and apply for research fellowships.”
However, Lopez Perez also acknowledged difficulties associated with distance learning for the summer semester.
“My biggest concern is the part of code troubleshooting,” Lopez Perez said. “Programming is a skill that requires lots of practice and lots of trial and error. Because of this, it can be quite frustrating at times and some students might feel overwhelmed quickly.”
While all academic programs have been transferred to distance learning, the University has yet to announce whether other programs, such as freshman orientation, will also be conducted online. Alyssa Cohen, program coordinator for New Student Programs, said no details have been finalized as of yet, but information regarding summer orientation will be announced after May 15.