Pre-College Programs

May 25, 2017

The Online Student Experience - Part 2

Brown’s Pre-College Summer Programs offer courses that can bring you to campus and abroad. But if commitments keep you closer to home, you still have options. Brown’s Pre-College Online Courses bring right to your fingertips a rigorous, active learning experience in many of the same subjects covered by Brown’s other summer programs. Courses involve more than just logging screen time: they’re an opportunity to interact with engaged instructors and students, take part in hands-on learning activities, and be challenged by college-level coursework, all while learning on a flexible weekly schedule.

We recently reached out to several former online students to learn more about their experiences with the program and featured Q&As with two of them here.

We got so many enthusiastic responses that we decided to do a Part 2 to the post, this time featuring three more students who each offer unique perspectives on the online course experience.

Heather Cook

Heather will be a senior at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this fall. Following her online course experience last summer, she’s enrolled in a Summer@Brown on-campus course this summer.

Why did you choose the Brown Pre-College Online program?

I am currently looking into Brown for my undergraduate degree and I thought I'd first explore the way a course is taught without going all the way to Rhode Island. The online format also allowed me to participate in summer programs with Eastern University and Philadelphia Futures, a first-generation-to-college program.

You took the course “Climate and Climate Change: Scientific, Societal, and Global Implications.” What was your favorite part?

The material. One of the main components of the course involved interviewing individuals in my community about current issues related to Philadelphia ecology and incorporating that information into a final project. It forced me to engage with people right in my backyard. I learned more about my city of Philadelphia, and what I could do to help it. I even developed an interest in environmental engineering because of this course!

What surprised you most?

I thought the modules in the Canvas platform were a great way to understand the work each week. Professor Keith Spangler even gave an itinerary of work to do for each day of the week. There was never a time where I felt lost, or had no idea what to do. If I had a question about the course material specifically, I messaged Professor Spangler. Shockingly, I would get a response literally within a day. I felt like a true priority.

How much interaction did your professors and the other students?

I definitely felt connected with my professor. The messaging system was very direct, and it was easy to communicate with him and my classmates. I did not have as prompt communication with my classmates because they lived in all parts of the world, including the West Coast and even Hong Kong! It was a great experience to talk with people who have such different life experiences.

How did the course benefit you academically?

This class prepared me for future online courses. It also prepared me to engage with my professor and classmates, learn new material at a rapid pace, and study for assessments. Studying is definitely essential for any college, or even accelerated, course.

What's one piece of knowledge you took away from the course?

That the environment is an ephemeral thing. It is constantly shifting, and due to the evolution of technology and industrialism, it is deteriorating. We are not on track to reduce climate change in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement (2 degrees Celsius by 2020), for instance. People need to realize that we only have one world, and it deserves to be treated right. It sustains our survival, after all. Why can't we sustain it?

Amy Ouyang

Amy is a senior at Miss Hall’s School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She will attend Northwestern University in the fall.

Why did you choose the Brown Pre-College Online program?

The Brown online program not only enabled me to explore the fields I am interested in, but it also gave me the opportunity to challenge myself in a college classroom setting. I didn’t feel restricted at all despite the online format and the variety of courses the program offers was very suitable for me as I have a wide range of interests.

What course did you take and why?

I took two courses through the program. The first was “Reading, Writing, Traveling: An Exploration in Creative Nonfiction.” I chose this course due to my strong interest in both reading and writing. Also, I love traveling. I have traveled all around the world since I was very little and this course was an opportunity for me to virtually travel to other places my classmates may have traveled to or have lived in.

The second course I took was “Storytelling in the Digital Age.” My hope was that the course would give me insight into new media and allow me to explore my own creativity.

What was your favorite part?

In my creative writing course, I really appreciated getting the chance to explore my creative side through the magic of words. I seldom get the chance to reflect on a specific place or time period in my life, let alone write about it.

In my storytelling course, we each made a film, from script to shoot. I felt very empowered to be given the opportunity to tell a story completely on my own and in my own way.

What surprised you most?

In the creative writing course, I learned a lot from reading different works by my classmates. Professor Stephen Foley asked us to write a piece about a place. I assumed it had to be somewhere big or impressive. But after reading a classmate’s piece about an ordinary restaurant near his house, I realized that writing is about depicting something closest to our heart instead of pursuing “big” and “impressive.”

In the second course, we watched many classical films. It was interesting to hear my classmates’ very different angles on the film. I had never analyzed a film like this before. It helped me learn how different camera angles can influence the message being conveyed to the audience. It was surprising to discover that there are so many considerations behind a single shot.

How much interaction did you have with your professors and the other students?

I felt very connected with both my professors and my classmates. I had many one-on-one online meetings with my professors, as well as group conferences with classmates. The interactions I had felt very similar to other traditional classes I have taken. I felt encouraged to ask questions and I would get responses from my professor very soon, usually within a day.

How did this course benefit you academically?

The courses challenged me to step out of my comfort zone to manage projects from beginning to end by myself without much assistance from my peers and professors. Many works we read and analyzed were long and complicated, unlike those in high school. It also challenged me to manage my time and plan well ahead so that I wasn’t struggling to meet the deadlines.

Beyond academics, what impact did the courses have on you?

I learned how to express my creativity. I had previously thought of myself as somebody without much creativity, but these online courses helped me to free my own thoughts and imagination. I learned to be okay with thinking outside the box and having seemingly crazy ideas. I also learned to communicate with professors and classmates in a college classroom setting.

Sidney Miralao

Sidney will be a senior at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia, in the fall.

Why did you choose the Brown online program?

It gave me the flexibility to absorb the content at my own pace. I wanted to take a course online because it allowed me to complete something academic over the summer while also upholding other obligations, such as working and coaching my neighborhood swim team. I also knew I wanted to take a course offered through Brown’s Pre-College Programs to see how it would help me become a better student by teaching accountability and utilizing the University’s great academic resources.

What course did you take and why?

I took “Climate and Climate Change: Scientific, Societal, and Global Implications.” The course genuinely interested me because of how it related so many different aspects of academia under a relevant, overarching issue. I wanted to learn more about the threat of climate change from both a typical scientific perspective and a broader social one.

What was your favorite part?

How we were given the chance to apply what we had learned about climate change to issues in our local community. Several assignments required us to learn about how climate change was affecting our area or to reach out to community members who worked in industries that were affected by climate change. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to look through the others’ presentations and learn about the effects in their respective localities and how they felt these issues could be solved.

What surprised you most?

How much I was able to interact with my classmates and the professor even though the course was online. I also was surprised that not all of our assignments were strictly online and that for many we engaged a lot with our community. Being able to investigate our areas further and to take our knowledge into the “real” world was very eye-opening and made the course more enjoyable.

How much interaction did you have with Professor Spangler and the other students?

Our very first assignment was to introduce ourselves, explain specific interests related to the course, and then respond to one another. Right from the beginning I was able to connect with each of the students on a personal and intellectual level. This continued throughout the course; in each module we were given the opportunity to share our opinions or personal interpretations of research. We interacted often with Professor Spangler. At the beginning and throughout each module, he would send out messages to the class. We also had the chance to interact with the professor when reviewing our work; it was easy to converse about the assignment specifically or the course in general.

How did the course benefit you academically?

This course definitely prepared me for college courses that are more discussion- and interaction-based. I better understand the responsibility one has in college to ensure he or she learns the material, on time, in order to get the most out of the course by actively listening and participating. It also taught me that you have the responsibility to complete your assignments on time without being asked.

Beyond academics, what impact did this course have on you?

This course definitely impacted how I think we should approach climate change as it becomes a growing issue. I realize it’s not as simple as presenting the facts to the public; scientists and decision-makers must work together to understand the issue and then come up with solutions that won’t hurt the industries involved. I also realized how much I would like to continue working towards solutions for climate change and [the course] overall instilled in me hope that we can truly reach those resolutions.