How students stayed connected this Summer Term

People Characters using Mobile Apps for Communication

Among the many challenges of the summer has been how to safely interact amidst social distancing and shutdowns.

Fortunately, Badgers are tenacious creatures, and Wisconsin Badger Summer Term students have proven they won’t give up on staying connected to each other and to professors, even during a pandemic.

Summer Term 2020 students Jaitri Joshi (left) and Grace VanDyke have used Zoom study sessions with peers and video chats with professors to stay connected to campus.

While they may not be enjoying courses and terrace time in person, students are making the most of technology to connect with faculty, staff and their fellow friends and classmates. Thanks to the responses of more than 1,400 of these students who completed our July survey, we got an overview of the most popular technologies and resources undergraduates are using to advance their academic careers, keep up with campus news and let off a little social steam.

Portals to professors

Bar graph showing how UW-Madison Summer Term students connect with professorsWhile the majority of students indicate they’re staying connected to their professors via email, a fair number are also using Canvas and Blackboard to communicate. Several students noted that they appreciated virtual office hours as a chance to chat with their instructors “face-to-face” while others cited Piazza’s forum boards as a particularly useful way to ask questions.

Rising sophomore and English major Grace VanDyke, who is taking four courses this summer, uses video and email to stay connected with her professors, who she says have been “extremely understanding and created courses that were well-designed for the online format.”

She credits her courses and campus connections for creating a new version of “normal” during an unusual time.

“My courses are helping me engage with the world around me through community exploration, in-depth research and examination of my own identity. It’s been really important to me to feel like I’m a part of something since everything changed so rapidly.”

Reaching resources

Bar chart showing campus resources usedWhile most students indicated they weren’t currently using any online campus resources, many also noted that they would be doing so in the near future. (And for those students who aren’t aware that most campus resources are available online, here’s your notice. Not even a pandemic can slow down these services!)

One student noted that while she appreciated online access to the libraries, she really missed going in person. Another student living in Austin, Texas, for the summer said she really valued working with a Writing Center instructor, who helped her make a recent paper “perfect.”

Students of every year listed their advisor as a strong point of connection to the university, from incoming freshman attending SOAR to graduating seniors looking for help building their resumes and searching for a career.

Finding friends

Bar graph showing how students connect with friendsBadgers stick together and this summer is no exception. Whether they’re connecting through Canvas during a course discussion, socializing on FaceTime or exchanging video creations on TikTok, students have no shortage of options when it comes to staying in touch with classmates and friends.

Jaitri Joshi is taking two courses and serving as a peer leader for Integrated Science 375 this summer. A rising junior majoring in biochemistry and life sciences communication, she and her classmate have set up Zoom calls to study before exams.

“I use the Memorial Union Terrace as my background while I Zoom to make me feel a little more at home,” Joshi explains. “I even like to study at home outside, where I have a view of the water. It’s no Mendota, but it will last me until I can come back to campus!”

Top 5 platforms

Top 5 list of platforms usedWhile survey respondents listed more than three dozen technologies and platforms they’re using to stay connected to professors, campus and classmates, a few rose to the top. Email was cited as the most-used communication tool, while Snapchat ranked as the highest social media platform students used to stay in touch with each other.

No matter the platform, Summer Term students have made it clear that staying connected to campus is helping them move forward with their academic goals, cope with the realities of the pandemic and support one another in true Badger fashion.

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