With COVID-19 impacting the way instruction is being taught, students enrolled in online classes are still trying to adjust to major academic changes this semester.
Online learning has increased by more than 40% at Texas Woman’s University and students are finding themselves behind the computer more than in the classroom. Navigating 2020 has come with many challenges, especially to first-year students who didn’t anticipate their first year experience amid a national pandemic.
Students say it has been overwhelming entering the new school year unsure of what to expect.
“It’s not as easy to get to know people, you can’t go to too many places because of the restrictions,” freshman biology major Destiny Alfred said. “My concern was – and still is, is that I wouldn’t actually learn anything. It’s my second day, I found out that was wrong.”
Alfred said her second concern is catching the Coronavirus. While most students are meeting virtually, students like Alfred are still meeting in person.
“All of the classes are in person,” Alfred said. “ They split the class in half, so group A will meet one week, and Group B will meet the next. Those who don’t meet in person will watch online.”
Though online instruction can be an advantage for some, it can pose challenges for those with disabilities. The disability services department has seen an increase in applications for support this semester, but that could be a result of some department-level changes, senior secretary Heather Stubblefield said.
“We have seen an uptick in applications because we recently transitioned to a new database system on DSS,” Stubblefield said. “The application process is much easier now with this new system. Students are finding it easier to apply for accommodations and because of that, we’re seeing more students.”
Online lectures and video content will have closed captioning for accessibility, and Spanish translators and deaf interpreters that are also available for students who need them, Stubblefield said. Students with disabilities or those that need accommodations are encouraged by the department to contact Disability Services.
Professors, too, are struggling to adjust their instruction since moving online. Teaching and Learning Technology and ITS partnered together to give instructors additional resources through a universal tool-kit and self-paced online course on technology.
“I work for the department for social work [and] usually our courses are face to face,” professor Emarely Rosa-Davila said. “I needed to transfer a lot of courses online, but I’m used to Canvas. With COVID and everything, that’s the best way for the students and faculty.”
The move to online has prompted instructors to develop new ways of engaging students, Rosa-Davila said.
“We have to make sure to engage all students with all different learning styles,” Rosa-Davila said. “Most of the students are millennials and they won’t be engaged [and] we need to get creative on how we develop content. I hope this semester goes well for our students.
“I hope they have the resources they need to be successful.”
Sabrina Gomez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image: A sign promotes social distancing on campus at The Texas Woman’s University on August 21, 2020. Photo by Sarah Pham.