Author: Sheri Denkensohn-Trott
At 54, I am a student again. I’m currently enrolled in the Cornell online certification course in Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity. After a three-day symposium, my first class began last week. It is module one, called Increasing Employee Engagement. So far, I am loving the content, the ability to access information easily, and the professor (who I watch on video) is fantastic. As expected, it is an adjustment from my last formal class at Georgetown Law Center in 1993.
First is virtual learning. I find the videos with the professor to be very interesting and there is a weekly Friday 30 minute online Zoom with the facilitator who is rating our work. She is very timely, provides great feedback, and quickly answers questions. Interestingly, not many people in the course show up. Today there were only three. It was nice to see faces and talk about different techniques and barriers that others are facing, but I wish more students would attend. Part of the course involves exercises where you answer questions and comment on at least two others in the course. There is a notification system when anyone sends a response, and I receive a daily comprehensive email with a link to all the comments, but it takes a long time to go through each one. I enjoyed reading all the entries and comments on the first assignment, but I have not done so on the second because it took so much time and I didn’t want to get behind. It’s taking me longer than expected to complete each assignment. Also, there is a “Student Lounge” where individuals post their bios, either written or video, and can chat back and forth. I took the time to make a video that Tony captioned, but I haven’t looked back to see if there are any comments. Overall, my initial assessment regarding interacting with my fellow students, is that I need to devote more time to reading entries and responding with comments and hanging out in the “Student Lounge.” Right now, I am focusing by getting my assignments done by the deadline on February 1, so I worry that if I go into the lounge or start reading comments, I will go down what I call the “social media hole,” when I start reading and don’t realize that over an hour has gone by and I still have work to do!
Every course has the assignments laid out and link to a calendar of their due date, although that is not a hard finish. You have until the last day of the class at midnight to submit all your assignments. What I realized today, is that I should’ve gone through and checked out all the assignments at the beginning of the course. There are two components of this course that require going to an outside manager and his/her employees. I should’ve done that earlier instead of waiting until today with all the content due on Monday. I will for sure be looking ahead and planning more efficiently for the next class, Counteracting Unconscious Bias.
That most annoying and difficult part of the class is technology. I should’ve expected that. Something as simple as submitting an assignment required an email to the helpdesk. Uploading my video was another email to the helpdesk. I couldn’t figure out where to put it and even had to reach out to Tony (my IT guru). I’m getting the hang of it. My latest snag is that my password and username will not work on the App that I downloaded to read comments during my downtime. I decided leave that for another day. Don’t get me started about passwords.
When it comes to learning, I knew I would enjoy the content, but I didn’t realize how much. I find it fascinating, engaging, and applicable to what I hope to bring to a consulting business after finishing the class. There are downloadable worksheets for easy reference, and I remain a physical notetaker, although I’m not filling up notebooks and instead have a folder on my phone to put my dictated or written notes. It is a whole new way of operating when I think back to my college and law school days when I didn’t even have a laptop! It feels like ages ago, although it is only decades.
As a learner who also has other responsibilities and needs flexibility, this course does fit the bill of being able to do schoolwork when I have the time and on my own schedule. That is a benefit of virtual learning. The weather is bad outside and cold, so I don’t mind sitting at my desk and looking out the window at the snow falling while I work on assignments. I don’t have to travel (just a roll down the hallway) and especially with the pandemic, I don’t have to be exposed to other people.
I do hope to find a tactic to meaningfully connect with others in the group for networking and learning more about how students plan to or are incorporating this knowledge into their current or future jobs. Sorry, but I cannot keep up with people dropping their LinkedIn information into a chat even though I did learn how to save a chat. (A definite bravo moment for me!) It is an interesting journey I’m on, and I’m happy that I decided to do it.