Projects: Physical vs. Virtual

Meghana Veldhuis, Managing Editor

The only thing more ingrained in BCA culture than tests are projects. Traditionally, BCA students have had the option to engage in independent research, internship, and performance projects, on top of the projects they are already required to complete for their classes. When BCA pivoted to virtual learning at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, students and teachers were forced to explore a new world of virtual projects; now that BCA’s physically opened again, students are able to compare their experiences with physical and virtual projects assigned in their courses.

47 students who attended Virtual BCA were polled on the types of projects they completed during their classes at Virtual BCA. 97.9% of students (46) responded that they had written essays during their virtual humanities classes, with just 2.1% (1) saying that they had not.

A slightly lower 93.6% (44) reported that they had created virtual slideshows as projects, while just 6.4% (3) said that they had not.

Ultimately, the entire 100% (47) said that they were tasked with working on virtual projects in groups.

Similarly, out of 74 polled students who are currently attending Physical BCA, 94.6% (70) of students reported still writing essays in Physical BCA, with just 4.1% (3) stating that they do not and just 1.4% (1) leaving no comment.

90.5% of students (67) reported still making physical slideshows, with 9.5% (7) stating that they do not.

Again, ultimately the entire 100% (74) reported working in groups on physical projects.

Though there is slight variation between the percentages, it is clear that the majority of students have not faced a major difference in the styles of projects they have been assigned in physical vs. virtual school, with most students working in groups, writing essays, and making slideshows between this year and last.

Students attribute this consistency to a variety of factors. “All of my teachers did a good job keeping some amount of normalcy in our assignments despite the pandemic,” one sophomore said as a compliment. “Even though we’ve had to deal with different styles of virtual and hybrid schooling, I think that most teachers managed to keep their lessons as close to a regular, physical class as they could.”

One junior stated, “I don’t think physical and virtual projects would have been that different anyway. Last year, we were trying to manage a completely new type of school, and this year, we’re trying to recover from a pandemic. Teachers were forced to teach in a completely new way, and us students had to come up with completely new ways to complete and submit projects. I don’t think that anybody wanted to be innovative with the styles of their projects with all this uncertainty.”

A different junior mentioned, “It helped that we were already doing things virtually before everything shut down for Covid. I know that when I started my freshman year in 2019, we were already doing lots of projects online, like using Google Drive to collaborate and to submit things. So, when we switched to Virtual BCA, we had to communicate differently, but the projects themselves didn’t have to change much.”

Communication was a big hurdle that virtual students had to overcome, as they were unable to casually meet in the cafeterias or hallways. Even though BCA has been reopened, there are still social distancing restrictions that hinder group congregations.

The most popular virtual communication platforms were, according to the 47 polled students, Google Drive and the included Google products, with 76.6% (36) of students reporting relying on them during Virtual BCA.

“I used Google Drive because it was easy for everybody to communicate in real time,” one junior reported. “You could see everybody’s edits and there’s even a little messaging box to message whoever’s on the document at that time. I used Google Slides for slideshows a lot, because it’s very easy for everybody to contribute to their own slides within the larger presentation.”

The next most popular platform was a tie: 72.3% (34) of students reported using both Outlook and Instant Messaging platforms like iMessage and WhatsApp to communicate.

“I used a lot of test messaging platforms because it was on my phone,” one sophomore said. “I know that you can get nearly every app on your phone, but it was much more intuitive to be able to text and send emails on my phone. It was nice to get a break from using the computer because I was on the computer so much for virtual school.”

53.2% (25) of students reported using “Social Media” to communicate.

“The good thing about social media [like Snapchat and Instagram] is that we’re already used to using it, and it seems more fun,” one senior stated. “However, because I use it a lot for socializing with my friends, I wasn’t as on-topic as I should have been. It’s very easy to get distracted [on social media].”

Just over 10% (5) of students specifically pointed out Discord as their preferred social media for projects. According to Business Insider, Discord started as a popular platform for video game players because it was cheap and intuitive. BCA students reported liking Discord because there’s options to join a variety of “Channels,” or groups that can be made for individual classes or projects, while still being able to send individual messages.

Just over 4% (2) of students included Zoom as a popular place to communicate, despite having most classes over Zoom.

One junior stated, “We were on Zoom all day; why would we want to continue being on Zoom for our homework?”

Another mentioned, “It was kind of clunky and hard to create your own Zoom room for project meetings, and awkward talking about the projects in the main Zoom room or asking your teacher to create Breakout rooms for you.”

No students pointed out Schoology as valuable in their communication.

In contrast, according to the 74 students currently attending Physical BCA, Instant Messaging and WhatsApp have taken the lead as most popular for communication, with 77% (57) of students reporting using them most often.

“Especially now that we’ve got to commute again, it’s important to be able to communicate in a quick and easy way,” one junior explained. “It’s much harder to take out your computer on a bus or in a car, but we’ve all got our phones on us. It’s very easy to send text messages.”

62.2% (46) of students reported still favoring Google Drive.

“I wouldn’t have expected Google Drive’s popularity to have massively increased or decreased with Covid,” another junior articulated. “We were using Google Drive before the pandemic, we used Google Drive during the pandemic, and we’ll continue using it after the pandemic. I can’t see Google Drive going away.”

59.5% (44) of students continued to report favoring social media, with Discord still a popular avenue.

“Social media’s even more fun to use now that we’re out and about and doing things,” one sophomore explained. “There wasn’t much to share during Covid because we weren’t doing that much. Now that clubs and internships have opened back up, there’s more to post about.”

Surprisingly, Outlook’s popularity has plummeted down to just 55.4% (41) of students favoring using their email.

“I think that we’re tired of Outlook,” one junior speculated. “We had to use it a lot during Virtual BCA, because it was pretty much the only way to communicate with teachers and the administration. Now that we can just go to a teacher’s room and talk to them, it doesn’t seem so necessary to use Outlook. Outlook’s just a reminder of all of last year’s chaos.” This student went on to explain that he does use Outlook to plan and schedule meetings for a group project or club but prefers to organize and produce content through other platforms.

The most obvious mode of communication in Physical BCA is, obviously, physically talking! Nearly 15% (11) of students reported exclusively communicating physically when working in a project, with many citing time at the beginning of a class period or mutual Study Halls and lunch periods as prime opportunities for a bit of group work.

“I’ve been waiting for over a year to talk to physical people again!” on junior proclaimed. “Why would I waste time sending an email or something when I can talk to another human, like I’ve been waiting to?”

Another junior summarized, “Physical communication is the easiest because the other person can’t ignore you. They can pretend that they didn’t receive your email, but they can’t deny you if you’re standing right there.”

Clearly, lots of effort goes into ensuring that a group project can be effectively completed, whether assigned during physical or virtual school. This willingness to adapt showcases the resilience of BCA students as they tackle any assignment no matter the uncertainty of the world around them.

Of course, the consistency of projects assigned during all styles of BCA is a testament to the skill and professionalism of BCA teachers and staff. Despite the challenges that the past few years have posed, BCA has prevailed, and produced some excellent projects along the way.

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