VOICES: Gauging the success of an online fall semester

Category:  Opinions
Friday, November 6th, 2020 at 11:48 AM
VOICES: Gauging the success of an online fall semester by Cassandra Gripp
Photo: Pexels.com

Just before the start of the fall semester, Edinboro students were told via email that the majority of classes would be delivered online and that on-campus housing options would be limited. For some, this may have been a blessing, but for myself and those I’m close to, it felt like the final hope in this insane 2020 was gone. 

In terms of health and safety, Edinboro going online has certainly been a success. Students and faculty continue to practice the COVID-19 guidelines: social distancing, wearing face coverings in buildings, washing hands, using the EU Shield app, wiping down equipment, and more. And while we’ve had a small spike recently (five in the last week), we’re lower in positive cases than all surrounding universities.

However, the transition online has done a number on students. It is difficult to stay motivated for a class that isn’t in-person. Returning students like myself are used to being able to meet up with a professor to discuss coursework, or form a study group with their friends at the library. This semester, these things are not possible. We rely on Zoom meetings and emails that may not come until after the deadline of an assignment has passed.

For the more interactive majors like education or nursing, it can feel downright impossible to work toward your degree online. As an education major myself, I’m learning how to teach a classroom of students from home, alone at my computer. I don’t get to experience classroom discussions in real-time, as in most lectures on Zoom, everyone remains muted.

I've found that the transition online has also affected students’ mental health. For some, their living situations may be less than ideal. This can lead to them feeling trapped. As the email was sent so close to the start of term, it proved difficult to secure secondary housing options, forcing these students to remain at home. Even moving forward into the spring semester, students are unsure if they will be approved for on-campus housing. 

Grayson Phillips, a sophomore at EU, stated: “Campus is a safe place for a lot of students. It sucks not knowing if we have the option to live there or not.”

Being at home again removes our independence. Jacob Baird, a sophomore, explained that he missed being able to walk around Mallory Lake and take pictures of the sunset. “I didn’t have to tell anyone where I was going or what I was doing.”

Martina Klaus, another second-year student, depended on campus living to maintain her social life. “I’m unable to hang out with my friends on campus now because I can’t drive.”

Jacob Zemanek, a sophomore, spent most of his freshman year riding his bike around campus and frequenting the game room. Now, “I miss hanging out with friends and the late-night Pogue runs. It’s definitely a different experience now.” 

These things may seem small and insignificant, but to some, they’re the things that matter most.

As incoming freshmen, we are told our whole lives how great college is supposed to be; we will be independent, be around people our age with similar goals, and we will be getting on track to starting the rest of our lives. Those benefits are an impossible reality right now. 

Allison Candella, a freshman at EU, said: “The social aspect is the biggest part of it. That’s part of the point of going to school in the first place. On days without in-person classes, I sometimes never see another person. It’s wild.”

The freshmen experience is important to the college experience overall, and this poor class of 2024 has not only missed out on that, but the majority of their senior year of high school. Allisynn Bengel, a freshman and fellow graduate from Fort LeBoeuf High School, said: “The end of my senior year was ridiculously abrupt. Even now, being halfway through my first semester of college, I still catch myself thinking about assignments that were never finished, events I never attended, and people I never got to say goodbye to. I wish there was more closure, but I understand that there wasn’t much to be done.”

Online schooling has been around longer than 2020, but a lot of students, myself included, had never participated in it before. Personally, I learn better around others, so switching to online felt abrupt, difficult and scary. However, in terms of health and safety, the transition online was a success. I welcome the changes coming in the 2021 spring semester. 

Cassandra Gripp is a staff writer for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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