Sunday, March 8 was like any normal Sunday at Hope College, as the never-ending “Hope busy” was weighing heavy on campus as spring recess neared. Students were enduring the pressure of the impending assignments, and practically every resident of Holland was exclaiming how beautiful the 60-degree, sunny day was for March. However, a whirlwind of events was on the horizon: the end of the week—and semester—was about to appear much different than was initially anticipated.
The information that emerged Wednesday, March 11 was sporadic. With a multitude of announcements of college and university closings due to COVID-19, nearly everyone on campus seemed distracted. The notifications from the news and students from other institutions were irregular and unnerving. By the end of the day, the fate of Hope’s semester suddenly became synonymous with that of the other universities.
With the suspension of Hope’s in-person classes from March 23 until April 14, the semester is not quite how I had pictured it. In the same way, it is likely that this semester is not going how many students, both at Hope and other universities, envisioned.
According to Christiana Scheibner, a freshman at the University of Michigan, U of M released an announcement with information regarding in-person classes and instruction on how to proceed.
“The University of Michigan gave us two days off to allow for teachers to set up all of our classes online. They recommended those who were able to go home to leave campus. As of now, our dining halls and dorms are still open,” Scheibner said. “We later got the news that even our final exams will be online.”
Scheibner stated there was not much discussion in her classes about possible online lectures and courses prior to the suspension of in-person lectures, discussions, and labs.
“I had no faculty discuss what would happen leading up to this decision besides a brief mention of just stating how we are waiting for an update or decision. This all came up very fast and as a surprise,” Scheibner said.
In my own experience, one of the aspects that I appreciated in the days leading up to the news about the suspension of in-person classes at Hope was the openness on behalf of the professors and faculty in regard to the situation. Every one of my professors not only discussed the likely future of the semester, but also disclosed the meetings they had attended in preparation for the transition.
On the other hand, I have yet to receive emails or Moodle announcements addressing how each of my classes will continue with assignments while completing school online. I have a multitude of questions about how my science courses, specifically labs and biology research, will proceed. Similarly, Scheibner expressed worries about the incompatibility of science and online classes.
“I believe myself and other students questioned how the transition [from in-person to online classes] would work, especially those in science classes and those conducting research like myself. I was concerned about how my lab would become an online class. In class, we were able to directly ask questions and have them answered right away, now we are not able to do so.” Scheibner said.
The physical nature of universities can also be important for many students. Claire Koeppen, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated the impact that in-person lectures have on her and how the change to online classes will be challenging.
“Personally, I feel like I learn better when I’m physically in my lecture halls or when I’m in discussion. In some of my lectures and discussions, we aren’t allowed to have devices out, so it really helps me to focus on the content provided during lecture,” Koeppen said. “I’m worried that it will be harder to focus when I’m at home, especially when all of my family will be home at the same time.”
Although Hope is in spring recess the week of March 16, I have attempted to work ahead on homework for the weeks to come. However, I am no longer in an extremely studious environment like college and have discovered it to be quite difficult to remain focused with easy access to electronics, family and other distractions.
Despite the preeminence of education in college, when a premature closing or transition occurs at universities, it is likely to affect more than the academic side of schools. Koeppen is in the midst of her spring break, but her previous plans have been altered.
“While I still went on spring break, I really wish I hadn’t. At the time I left, I had no idea how bad the situation was going to get, and how the Coronavirus has such a great effect on people,” Koeppen said. “Since being on vacation, I’ve limited my time with those outside of my family, tried to practice social distancing and have avoided going out to eat/being in large crowds. However, as I said, I still wish I was at home.”
Even with the difficulties and trial and error that may arise from the transition, this semester will boast a new experience for all students, faculty, and families. Change is a significant part of college, and this alteration in learning can surely be deemed a major modification.
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