The Online Student Experience

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.

But don’t take our word for it. We recently reached out to several former online students to learn more about their experiences with the program. Here, they share their unique perspectives on the online course experience.

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

Heather Cook: 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.

Amy Ouyang: The Brown Pre-College online courses 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 offered was very suitable for me as I have a wide range of interests.

Sidney Miralao: 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.

Cameron Harris Taylor: I wanted to learn about Brown and I had other activities planned for the summer so the online schedule worked best for me.

Oliver Allen: I was looking around for programs I could do online as I have a job and couldn’t afford to be away for several weeks, and Brown’s online engineering courses caught my eye.

What was your favorite part about the course you took?

HC: I took “Climate and Climate Change: Scientific, Societal, and Global Implications.” 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!

AO: In “Reading, Writing, Traveling: An Exploration in Creative Nonfiction,” 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 “Storytelling in the Digital Age,” 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.

CHT: The projects in “Renewable Energy Engineering: Wind and Solar Power.” It was intriguing to take the concepts we were learning and apply them to actual situations such as making a design for completely converting a country of our choice to renewable energy. In one experiment, we were assigned the task of making an anemometer with straws and cups. We used our new anemometers to measure wind speeds at various locations. There’s very little wind in Greenville, so I searched in several places until my anemometer spun at the top of an overpass. After we submitted our results, we discussed one another’s findings.

What surprised you most?

SM: How much I was able to interact with my classmates and the professor even though the course (“Climate and Climate Change: Scientific, Societal, and Global Implications”) 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.

CHT: I was surprised by how diverse our class was. There were students from all over the United States as well as around the world. I was also impressed by how the seemingly simple experiments Dr. Külaots had us do helped me understand larger concepts.

OA: How both challenging and fun the course – “Renewable Energy Engineering: Wind and Solar Power” – was. I also was surprised by how much help and guidance I received from the instructor. That’s what made the course so extraordinary: I could email the instructor with questions — I had a lot of them! — and he always replied with very thorough answers. I never felt lost or confused, and if I did, I knew he would help me understand. I was initially nervous about class, about asking dumb questions. I have to say that the instructor was one of the friendliest and kindest teachers I’ve ever had. It really felt like he cared about his students and about renewable energy.

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

HC: I definitely felt connected with my professor. The messaging system was very direct, and it was easy to communicate with him and my classmates. My classmates 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.

AO: 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.

SM: 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 our professor. At the beginning and throughout each module, he would send out messages to the class and it was easy to converse about the assignment specifically or the course in general.

How did the online program benefit you academically?

AO: The two courses I took 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.

SM: 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.

CHT: I felt more prepared for competitions like the Science Olympiad. Taking part in this event, I was able to apply concepts from the course to make a wind turbine. I also coached a middle-school team in the Science Olympiad, and through the knowledge I gained from the course, I helped that team take second in their wind power event.

Heather is a senior at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this fall. After her online course experience, she enrolled in a Summer@Brown on-campus course the following summer.

Amy attended Miss Hall’s School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and is currently a freshman at Northwestern University.

Sidney is a senior at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia.

Cameron is a junior at the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham.

Oliver is a senior at Chatham High School in Chatham, New York.

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