College-at-home gets mixed reviews
For many college students who came back to Sammamish, coronavirus broke out just as spring break began. Students left campuses for home, unsure how their education would be affected or for how long they would have to stay. Most never returned.
“After living on my own for so many months, coming back home was a shock I really did not need,” Avery Winser, 19, a Western Washington University rising sophomore, said. “[The virus] was a reminder of how badly I crave independence.”
Once students were safely at home, colleges quickly instituted a variety of strategies for continued learning. Lecture classes were pre-recorded by professors or offered live on Zoom. Additional Zoom options included small group work through breakout rooms or one-on-one instruction. Labs for science classes were performed and filmed by teachers or done through online simulations. Other modes of instruction involved video assignments and quizzes through online platforms.
For some students, remote learning in lecture-based classes was quite effective, according to interviews with the Sammamish Independent. Students found that recorded lectures were better than those in person. They could pause and repeat sections, speed up the pace, or listen on their own schedule. The possibility of continuing recorded lectures post-coronavirus was appealing to these students.
However, other students had a different view.
“You lose out on a lot of the nuance in interaction by having a one-way stream of information, and it is harder to ask questions and get involved,” Joey DePrez, 19, a rising sophomore at Western Washington University, said.
Students could not ask a question easily during a live Zoom class or as they watched a recording. Interaction was limited to small groups on Zoom, which was awkward if people were not contributing to the discussion. Teachers did, however, host office hours via Zoom for questions and additional explanation.
Dylan Kinzer, 19, a rising junior at Chapman University, misses being in the classroom.
“You really lose the whole aspect of being able to really learn the curriculum and being able to learn with the other students,” Kinzer said.
Several students mentioned that taking classes at home was distracting. Motivation became a challenge outside of the normal studying environment on campus.
“When having online classes, outside distraction is a constant obstacle,” Jonny Smith, 20, a Western Washington University student, said. “I get distracted easily so trying to knuckle down and remain focused on my classes was the greatest struggle.”
Just as the local Sammamish school districts changed grading systems for the final quarter, many colleges also compensated for difficulties in remote learning. Options such as default pass / no pass, final projects instead of exams, or simplified finals gave students a break from the stress of online learning.
Besides classes, many extracurricular activities such as sports, theater productions and clubs were canceled when schools closed.
Sydney Colburn, 20, is a rising junior at the University of California, San Diego, and a member of the rowing team. She described the shock of school shutting down just as the rowing season started.
“We had just packed everything up to go to our very first race of the season, like the day everything was canceled,” she said. “So, we did not even get to compete, which was really, really frustrating.”
Because athletes for spring sports lost their season, the NCAA granted affected students an extra year of eligibility to compensate, but some students may not benefit from this opportunity if they are ready to graduate or unable to pay for an additional year of tuition.
Theater productions and music groups tried to continue meeting online but were frustrated by poor audio quality and lagging internet speeds. Club participation via online meetings suffered.
“[Lockdown] made people less motivated or less interested,” Kayla McGehee, 19, a rising sophomore at Gonzaga University, said.
Some students said the lockdown has allowed them to expand their interests in other activities, making up for those canceled. In addition to getting more time with family, students can spend more time doing things they love or acquiring new hobbies.
Lauren Drake, 19, a rising junior at Pepperdine University, said the time at home actually helped her focus on her classes.
“I was spreading myself way too thin,” she said. “With a lot of things getting canceled, and coming back home, I finally had enough time to do all of my classes, and was able to get a 4.0 in all of them.”
Smith, the Western Washington University student, said this experience has made him more perseverant in the face of uncertainty.
“Now I never rely on always having the answers to my problems, and instead to work to the best of my ability and remain strong for better times to come in the future,” he said.