By: Esther Paul – Copy Editor
The beginning of any normal semester meant the hustling and bustling to acquire books and new outfits, school lawns filled with students headed to classes, and crowds gathering at back-to-school events. This semester, however, has proven to be anything but normal.
With the irresolution of the COVID pandemic, many schools made the decision to deliver classes virtually. According to the Center for disease control, “Nationally, the percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 decreased from 5.5% during week 35 to 5.1% during week 36.” This is as of the week of Sept. 5.
It is no surprise that schools are still considering the safety of their staff as well as students. On July 6, the president of Rutgers University, Johnathan Holloway, announced that classes would be delivered remotely due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“Because of the ongoing requirements for social distancing and guided by our paramount priority of safeguarding the people of our university community, we determined that most courses this fall will have to rely on remote methods of instruction -delivered both in real-time and asynchronously.”
Given the population of the university, it is no surprise that it would be challenging to maintain social distancing guidelines on the campus. Just shy of 2 months since the president’s announcement, professors and students have positioned themselves in front of computer cameras as they prepare for the semester ahead. Online school is nothing new to some but to many it is very new and strange having to mandatorily be in an online classroom for every course. For the students at the Newark campus, it has been an experience.
“Personally, I feel that it is harder to keep track of all of my courses being virtual. I would much rather be in person because I feel like it would be easier for me to keep track and we would just have a better learning experience overall face to face,” said Nina Gonzalez, a junior majoring in Journalism and Media studies at Rutgers, Newark.
Virtual classes are demanding that students be disciplined and responsible when it comes to deadlines. Being in a traditional classroom allows for such an interaction that reminders are always given. However, this semester is pushing students to take control of their learning experience.
For some students, it is not about the class interaction but their environment. Some students must share their environment and wireless connections with other siblings which causes distraction.
“While I am a Rutgers student, I am also an older sister to three younger siblings who are also taking online classes,” said Lisbet Enrriquez, a senior majoring in Supply chain management.
Lisbet also mentions that there just isn’t enough space in their apartment for them all.
“Four individuals with laptops and notebooks take up more space than one would think in an apartment. We have to spread out to be able to focus on our lessons and our schedules.”
With such a diverse campus, students come from different areas, classes, and backgrounds. Not everyone has the same experience. The pandemic came as a surprise and uprooted the traditional way of life that everyone became accustomed to. Learning was no different.
Although students have come to prefer and appreciate the traditional way of teaching, some are understanding about the new experience.
“Overall, I feel as if students and professors should not be hard on themselves. We are all going through a pandemic together and it’s important that we work together to get through it,” said David Prince, a junior majoring in Journalism.
It is also no secret that this semester requires additional co-operation and support from all professors as well as students. This semester comes after students have been quarantined to their homes for months. The impersonal feel to the classroom requires a community.
“Without the emotional engagement I would typically have in a physical setting, I quickly learned that in the online format I was alone,” said Lauren Milligan, a junior majoring in Video Production.
“I miss the simple interaction of tapping my neighbor to see if they can explain a concept I’m having trouble understanding,”
The student affairs office understands the students’ frustration and wants them to know that resources are readily available to help make their experience as enjoyable and normal as possible.
“The Career Development Center, Student life and leadership, the Intercultural resource center and Health and wellness are all offering a wide range of programs virtually and in some cases they are offering appointments in person,” said Corlisse Thomas, the Senior Vice Chancellor for student affairs.
She noted that , “students should make sure they are still attending to their mental and physical health, preparing for their careers and building their leadership skills through involvement in student clubs and organizations.”
Dr. Thomas also wanted students to know that the library, Starbucks and dining services in the Robeson café are open for all individuals interested in visiting the campus.