The Fall 2020 semester is starting very differently for students across the United States due to COVID-19. With schools offering face-to-face, hybrid, online or a mixture of the various class formats, stress is at an all-time high for students, teachers and homeschooling parents alike who are having to adapt to the many new technologies. College students are also attending classes in a variety of formats while dealing with the frustrating possibility of having to move off-campus should the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Though Meredith College has not yet had to send students off campus, this has already become reality for students at larger universities. As of Sept. 4, Meredith has 13 students and no employees who are in isolation with active cases of COVID-19.
Meredith is offering face-to-face, hybrid and online courses this semester in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Students have the option of attending face-to-face and hybrid courses virtually via Zoom if they wish to do so. Residence Life has also been more lenient with allowing first and second year students to live off campus in order to decrease exposure to COVID-19. Residence Life has also allowed students to opt for living in a single room without having to pay the typical fees associated with this accommodation. While these cautionary measures are essential to everyone’s safety, students are saddened that they are missing out on aspects of their Meredith experience. Olivia Vestal, ‘21, is a music education major and has had to adapt to the guidelines put in place for her music classes and student teaching. Vestal says, “I am sad about not getting my full senior experience...how I interact with schools has been completely changed, and observing or teaching lessons is harder.” Despite this challenge, Vestal is grateful to her music professors, specifically Dr. Gravelle, for making “in person choir and voice lessons possible.”
With new course formats comes new technology, and Zoom Boards have made the transition to hybrid courses much more efficient for classes that have students both face-to-face and online. Zoom Boards are a “great way to accommodate students who need face-to-face instruction and the students who feel safer Zooming into class,” according to Vestal. Paige Lawrence, ‘21, also thinks Zoom Boards have been a great addition to hybrid and online classes, but misses the deep connections that are made within Meredith’s close-knit community during in-person classes. She states, “I am grateful for technology where we can still feel somewhat connected, but it will never be the same as the joy I get from face-to-face interactions.” Shefali Srivastava, ‘21, also views online classes as “bittersweet” because using Zoom can sometimes feel awkward. Srivastava is living off campus this semester, and she says that while attending class via Zoom is easier than commuting, it still “takes away the human interaction of working together” that is so valued at Meredith. A new transfer student and member of the Class of 2023, who has asked to remain anonymous, also says that Zoom “definitely has made meeting new people and making friends from my classes that much harder.”
In addition to adapting to Zoom, resident students are also thinking about how their academics will be affected if they need to move back home because of COVID-19. Lawrence says having to relocate would be inconvenient as she already has family members working and attending Zoom meetings from home, so there may be some challenges to overcome. She is also “devastated” that several events and traditions have been cancelled or postponed. “This is not what I imagined and hoped my senior year would look like,” says Lawrence. The anonymous student hopes everyone can adhere to safety guidelines that have been put in place as she “hated being stuck at home...and having little to no social interaction” last semester.
Srivastava believes that our “appreciation for human connections” is something good that can come from this pandemic because we often take these connections for granted. She says that this new normal has made her realize how good it feels just to see “a smile on a human face.”
Whether on campus or off, everyone is facing challenges this semester when it comes to online learning. Echoed through these interviews is the appreciation of the continued efforts of professors and students to create community even in these trying times.
By Molly Perry, Staff Writer