By Dionna Murray

 

No one expected how this year would turn out. The outbreak of COVID forced the Rutgers community into remote learning halfway through the spring semester. Major adjustments were suddenly made and both students and staff were thrown into uncertainty amidst such unprecedented times.

While the fall semester is similarly remote with a select few classes meeting in-person, there is a level of preparedness for the situation since the pandemic has been prevalent for over nine months. 

To understand how students are feeling regarding remote learning and online classes, I interviewed close peers of mine to share their opinions and experiences during this unusual semester. 

 

What are your general feelings about this semester?

Amy Lopez (English Major, Junior): The online semester has been going well so far and my professors have been pretty understanding and aren’t giving too much work, so I’ve pretty much been keeping myself organized and finishing all my assignments as they come in.

R Dillon (Senior, English Major, and History Minor): My general summation of this semester, in one word, would be: disappointing. When I registered back in spring, I was holding on to the hope that classes in the fall would be in-person. I sign up for lecture-style courses because I often have issues with self-motivation with no outside reinforcement from teachers or engagement with peers. Disappointing, and just sad.

Mary Hutchings (Senior, English Major, and Political Science Minor): Honestly, I do not like online classes. For me, I learn much better and have more motivation in person. I also at times feel like the quality of education is worse with online classes than in-person.

Michael Giangreco (Freshman, Nursing Major): Going into this semester, I was worried that it would be a big change from what I was used to. But I was still grateful that we were having school at all.

 

Do you think you have been able to focus more on your classes now or has it been more challenging?

Amy: I have definitely been able to focus on my classes more this semester because I have more time to sit down and actually do my work.

R: It has definitely been much more challenging. I knew going into this semester that I would naturally have issues as I don’t fare well with online courses, but I am glad to have any semblance of regular life at all. 

Mary: I’ve had a harder time focusing, but it has been okay so far. There isn’t too much work for me to handle. I can usually focus enough to get it done.

Michael: I think it has been more challenging because now it is all on us to divide up our work and choose when to read PowerPoints and watch videos. If you choose to instead watch Netflix or play on your phone, you will never get the work done. The temptation to procrastinate is greater because we are all home. 

 

How have your professors been during this semester? Are they easier to reach? Do they express concern and understanding? Are they more lenient? 

Amy: My professors are very easy to reach this semester and are actually very understanding and lenient. They make remote learning not as stressful as people would think.

R: I have been incredibly lucky to have the professors that I do. In general, all of my professors have been excellent with understanding that circumstances are not the best and have become somewhat more lenient but do expect work to be done. Deadlines are slightly lax, especially if you reach out to your professors with any concerns or life updates, which I find incredibly refreshing lately. 

Mary: I think my professors are about the same with communication (emailing them with questions, etc.). I haven’t necessarily experienced more leniency yet but they have all been understanding.

Michael: My professors are awesome, even though they are not dealing with ideal circumstances, they still are trying to reach the students. Yes, all of my professors have been easy to reach. They have some understanding but now that we are past the first couple of weeks, they expect you to have everything figured out yourself. And no, I wouldn’t say that they are more lenient. 

 

Are there elements of this semester that you like? Are there any that you would change for the better?

Amy: I like the fact that most of the assignments are due during one day of the week that way I don’t have to rush to do my work or turn in assignments. I would change the fact that some professors try to make the work more difficult as we go because I know people are losing determination and focus so I don’t think it’s fair for them.

R: I do like zoom for the most part, because I physically see people if only the teacher themselves. I’m the kind of student who automatically turns on their camera, so the teacher doesn’t feel alone. If I am being honest, the main thing I would change about this semester is to make it in-person, but I understand that it is just not possible yet. I’m holding out hope for the spring.

Mary: Since I live about 45 minutes away from campus, it is nice to not have to commute, but I would definitely choose in-person classes over online. I think something I would change about this semester is that out of 4 classes that were meant to be in person, only two of them meet virtually at the time the class was supposed to be. The other two classes just upload material and short recorded lectures for us to go through ourselves. I find it much easier for me to focus and learn if I can at least attend virtual lectures. 

Michael: I like that I don’t have to drive to my classes, giving me more time to study. And no, I think that if we were to go all online, the way it is set up now would be ideal, but nothing beats going in-person. 

 

How has homework been? Do you think you are receiving more than when you were attending in-person classes or is it actually more manageable?

Amy: I think I had more homework when it was in-person learning. For remote learning, I just have one homework assignment per week mostly.

R: I have received significantly less homework than what was expected in-person, though at this point academically, homework was often replaced with drafting for a larger paper. I have, however, had an increase in reading, but without the homework backing it, I actually find it a lot more manageable, and I feel I am engaging with all my class materials rather than prioritizing homework for one class over the readings for another. 

Mary: I think I’ve actually been receiving less homework than when I had in-person classes. It is very manageable.

Michael: Homework has been weekly and mostly from my online textbooks. No, because even if we were in-person, we would have to use our online textbooks and do the homework on them. I experienced this with my other classes that had similar textbooks. The homework was always take-home and online. I believe that it is the same amount of manageability.