For some students, switching to online classes and working from home is a difficult transition, but for others, working and learning in the virtual world has proven to be a better fit; such is the case for Brittany Cassidy.
Cassidy is graduating with her Marketing degree this spring, and has just accepted a job offer with Kohler/Kallista as an associate media analyst. When she started school at UW-Green Bay in 2019, she loved the connections she made with friends, classmates and professors on campus.
But when the pandemic hit, forcing classes to go online, Cassidy used her self-discipline to make the transition work. In fact, it worked so well, she decided to finish her undergraduate work with online classes and to do her internship virtually.
“Obviously, it was a big change (to go online) because before the pandemic, I had only taken one class online,” Cassidy said. “The change was difficult, but also, I’m pretty disciplined, so it wasn’t too difficult for me.”
The biggest challenge, she said, was determining her new routine.
Before the pandemic, she attended in-person classes on campus. Immersing herself in clubs and activities, she based her schedule around her classes, she said.
When the pandemic forced the university to switch to virtual classes, Cassidy moved back home to her parent’s house in Allenton, separating her from friends, classmates and professors, and disrupting her college experience.
“I had to rework my entire schedule in order for it to work with my life and my new modes of instruction,” she said. “When things moved online, some teachers just posted lectures and you kind of had to do it at your own pace. Then, some teachers still had times to meet, but you only meet for like an hour. It was definitely difficult to structure my schedule.”
Online school, she said, is more work than in-person classes. In a virtual classroom, you have to read the book and do the homework because you may not have the opportunity to ask the professor questions during class. And if you don’t understand something, sometimes it’s not as simple as raising your hand to ask a question —it can be as complicated as scheduling an online meeting with your professor via email.
“It was a big challenge, but I wanted to keep doing school; I wanted to be successful,” she said. “So, I just did what I could and tried super hard and dedicated a lot of time throughout my day to school. I would say the change was pretty drastic. It wasn’t easy for a lot of students, but I would say that I adapted fairly quickly.”
When the opportunity to return to classes came in the fall of 2020, Cassidy took it. By spring however, she was back to all online classes. The opportunity to move in with her boyfriend in Hartford helped her save money and be in control of her own schedule helped her make the decision to finish up her degree online.
She even found an internship with Kohler online. Working with the social media marketing for the company’s Kallista brand, Cassidy is able to be fully remote for school and work while using her marketing education. Cassidy runs Kallista’s entire Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts, creating posts, engaging with followers, responding to messages and managing partnerships with social media influencers who use the company’s products and then promote them. A week before graduation, she accepted an offer from Kohler/Kallista as an associate media analyst.
“I truly love it,” she said. “I was a little bit nervous at first, because I know nothing about plumbing, but I’ve learned a lot about different products and what makes a functional bathroom work.”
Working virtually is a challenge too, she said, due to virtual meetings with different teams, and daily meetings with her boss. But, like school, it is one more challenge to adapt to that requires organization, planning and communication.
The pay-off to the switch to virtual, she said, is the flexibility to work on her own, finish assignments at times optimal for her schedule and optimize her work/life balance. Living in a one bedroom apartment with her boyfriend, who is also taking online classes, means making sure both of them have the time and space they need to get things accomplished.
“I work from 12 to 6 p.m. every day,” she said. “I was working in the mornings, but that wasn’t working very well because it’s very challenging for us both to be home while I’m in meetings all day.”
Now, she’s up fairly early to get some class assignments done, and then relax until she has to work. After work, she said, she goes to the gym to work out before coming back to the apartment to cook dinner. Later that evening, she said, she finishes up any other assignments she may have for school.
Managing work and school online means staying on top of what’s expected of you from day-to-day, she said. To manage it, she created a master spreadsheet of every assignment she had due throughout the semester. She plans weekly what is due and what her commitments are to her internship, based on the spreadsheet.
“If you don’t structure your day out well and you don’t set aside time for school, you’re not going to do well because there’s no professor reminding you about assignments,” she said. “There’s no one telling you. ‘Hey, there’s an exam next week. Make sure you study for it.’”
But honing those skills—organization, communication and planning—will ultimately benefit her after she graduates and tackles the next step in her career.
Story by freelance writer Liz Carey
Photo by Kelly Smith Images