As a student at Hofstra University, the changes that have come as a result of the coronavirus have been particularly jarring. Just as I thought I was packing up for a relaxing spring break, I found out that I’d be living at home in Massachusetts again indefinitely. My plans for the spring semester were postponed or erased completely. I said goodbye to my friends for what could be weeks or months.
While my way of life seemed to come to a halt, my classes did not. As spring break wrapped up and Hofstra announced that all classes would be online for the remainder of the semester, emails slowly started coming in from each of my professors, beginning to lay the groundwork for the next couple of months of remote learning.
Keeping track of all these different plans was one of the more unexpected challenges with the adjustment: different subjects and different professors meant that I had to adapt to multiple different remote learning strategies. That may be similar to the adjustment of starting a new semester, but now I no longer had any real structure or schedule to make sense of it all.
Two of my professors moved forward by giving lectures on Zoom during our regularly-scheduled class time. One of my professors scheduled short, one-on-one Zoom sessions once a week, checking in on our work individually. Another professor recorded lectures and posted them on YouTube, so students could watch and respond to her with notes via email. Taking a decidedly low-tech approach, one of my professors simply sent out the notes in an email when our classes normally would have taken place.
Zoom, the computer and mobile app that’s quickly become synonymous with communication in the age of coronavirus, has admittedly brought some normalcy to the whole situation. Although just emailing the notes would probably suffice for a few of my classes, having a scheduled time in the week to do something or be somewhere—even just virtually—is valuable when every day feels so amorphous. It can be difficult to have normal conversations on Zoom, but hearing the voice of someone you know and having the opportunity to be heard at all make life feel a little less desolate and a little more real again.
Nevertheless, with a barely-existent schedule and no library to focus in, the challenge of assignments remains especially formidable. As a journalism student, most of my assignments consist of writing and learning applications like Adobe InDesign—work that can be done online fairly easily. I’m at much less of a disadvantage than my peers in classes that require more hands-on work. Obstacles have still arisen and concessions have had to be made, though.
For one of my classes, the final project is to go to an event, report on it and take your own videos and photos. However, with social distancing measures in place, there aren’t any events for students to attend now. Fortunately, my professor saw the challenge as an opportunity. He helped us to find virtual events and navigate the process of reporting amid a pandemic. He understood that the multimedia aspect of the assignment might still be impossible, but he had us reach out to the people participating in our events to get relevant photos and videos. Journalists haven’t given up because of what’s going on in the world, so why would student journalists?
There have been a lot of exasperating aspects to this change, some of which still need to be handled—in particular, the prospect of continuing remote learning in the fall and the absurdity of paying regular tuition under these circumstances. More than anything, though, I can look back on the semester and appreciate how many of my professors and peers have responded to the challenge of online classes with innovation and understanding.