(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Some students and faculty at Winthrop University say they’re still having difficulty adapting to conducting classes mostly online or in a hybrid setting, which mixes in-person learning with virtual.
Over the past year, a number of students have shared their feelings about adjusting to new the COVID-19 guidelines, such as having to wear masks on campus or missing out on the social aspects of college life.
However, more than a year after many of the changes were implemented due to the pandemic, a number of students say they’re still having trouble adjusting.
Angela Fanning, a business administration major at Winthrop, said she has been affected mentally by not being physically in a classroom.
“COVID has definitely affected me mentally more than physically. Not being in a classroom setting has shifted my focus and has caused me to not be as driven as I would be in a traditional semester,” said Fanning.
Fanning said she is working towards developing a routine for herself, in order to make her semester go more smoothly in the future.
Piper Laine, a theatre major at Winthrop, said virtual classes have impacted her schedule and performance.
“A lot of my classes are online, so it’s a little more difficult to plan out my eating schedule around that as well. When you have back to back classes, you don’t really have the opportunity to really go out anywhere,” said Laine.
“It’s also difficult dealing with COVID, being that my teachers are having to adapt too. Even though I’m still receiving an education, I am not doing the best that I can, to be honest.”
Graduate student Tess Torok said the pandemic and the new virtual learning environment has affected her studies in the early childhood education program.
“You have to have a certain number of hours with clients, and meeting face-to-face with people, and because of COVID we have been limited to tele-help and tele-online things and some clients don’t want to do that. So as a result, our internship hours are cut and we are scrambling to get those in so that we can graduate,” said Torok.
Katrina Gainey, a senior social work major, is one of a number of students who said the pandemic has also impacted her internship.
“I personally would not be in a classroom this semester anyway, due to the fact that I have an internship. However, I do miss the more hands-on aspect of my internship, but if doing it virtually is keeping us all safe then so be it,” said Gainey.
“I only have a handful of classes this semester, so I am not really feeling any kind of affect from not being able to attend a traditional classroom this semester,” she said.
Gainey, like a number of her peers, said she hopes next semester will be different, especially since she will begin work as a graduate student.
A number of Winthrop faculty have also said they’re still adjusting to teaching virtually during the spring semester.
“This semester we were going to do half (virtual) and half (in-person) and it would be making things really complicated in getting people, half the class in and then half of the class having to be retaught the same thing the next class,” said Janet Gray, a professor of Theatre.
“When I started the semester, I had (students) in quarantine, I had people wanting to stay out of town and I had people who were non-compliant (with the requirement to take a COVID-19 test before returning to campus). And so I was ending up with almost no one to come into the class. So I am teaching, once again, completely online,” said Gray.
Student attendance has been a problem in classes this semester, according to Kat West, an assistant professor of psychology.
“Probably the biggest and hardest thing for me has been dealing with the number of student absences,” said West. “Obviously life has been crazy for the last year, with everybody, either being sick themselves or potentially being exposed to somebody and being quarantined. Some people not feeling comfortable coming to campus at all and just trying to balance all that.”
As a result, West said she has eliminated her typical attendance policy, because it has been difficult to maintain.
Meg Schriffen, an associate professor of dance at Winthrop, said the pandemic is still creating some complications for her and her students.
“Well I teach dance, so that in itself is a challenge, because we’re masked dancing and trying to divide the time between my students that are on Zoom and the students that are in-person is a real challenge,” said Schriffen.
“Its been really difficult for the students who are dancing in dorm rooms and not on the proper flooring, so it’s a challenging time. Luckily we’re moving in the direction of getting more in-person, so I’m looking forward to that.”
However, some students said taking classes in a virtual setting provides some new opportunities, such as being able to attend cultural events online.
“I feel as though you have a lot more freedom with the way you would like to learn nowadays with the way things are going. I honestly do not have any issue with us not having much in-person interaction in a traditional classroom,” said Isabel Schaefbauer, a biology major.
“Of course for some classes, I have to adjust due to the curriculum, but I enjoy being able to plan each day the way I want.”
Schaefbauer said she has also developed some new study techniques, during the pandemic, which she feels have helped to improve her grades since the beginning of the spring 2021 semester.
Despite the struggles, West said things are getting better.
“There were times where I was worried about being in-person in the classroom, especially early on with COVID, but honestly I think Winthrop has done a pretty good job and again my students have been amazing. I’ve not had anybody have any trouble wearing their mask or anything like that, so I’m still pretty happy doing what I do,” she said.
“Here we are a year out and I don’t want to say I’m comfortable teaching like this, but I feel a lot better. I feel like I’m giving students a good experience again.”