Students, parents, teachers and professors alike have been taught a tough lesson during the pandemic: Things will never be the same post-pandemic, starting with the notion that school may never be in-person only again.
Today’s students must deal with ever-changing health protocols brought on by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and now many classes are offered online — even online only. With that in mind, members of EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps asked students at several California campuses, as well as one professor, what they felt was the optimal mix of online versus in-person instruction.
As we suspected, the answers were all over the map, but each lent insight into what students are facing today with Zoom classes, classes with masks, classes without masks and beyond. The students asked questions like: “How many classes do you take online, how many do you take in-person and why,” and “What measures are you taking to stay safe,” and “What type of classes would you prefer to take in the future?”
Here are the responses:
(Click on the names or images below to read what each person had to say.)
Student | Political science major and a third-year student at Santa Monica College
“I just like how mobile it is,” Alsanussi said about online learning. “I could be anywhere studying. I can always stay at home and do fun stuff, where I’m feeling more comfortable.”
On the other hand, Alsanussi said she recognized the benefit of in-person learning, too. “I think in-person learning is important because we need that social interaction,” she said. “It’s something we don’t get from the experience of studying online.”
While Alsanussi said she did her best to adapt to online learning during the pandemic, the experience soured her on college in America. “This is not even worth it,” she said. “I could have gone to school back at home in Sweden for free and learned twice as much with less stress.”
Victoria "Tori" Flores
Student | Sophomore at California State University Long Beach studying criminal justice
“It’s not like I was hurt at the fact that we were online because it really did make my life easier,” Flores said. “My mom works from home, so while I was doing school work I could help her out by watching my brothers.”
The Cal Grant recipient uses her salary from her part-time job to pay for school fees and personal needs. “Because of online learning, I don’t have to spend money on gas and the parking permit. I can do everything at home and spend my money on what I need. I can literally just get out of bed, come sit at my desk, and then I’m already in class.”
Flores said about the convenience of virtual learning. “I don’t have to worry about waking up early to actually go in-person. It’s the drive there, the parking that makes it a lot harder.”
Flores also said that virtual learning allowed her to have downtime in between her classes. “The last time I was in a classroom was in high school and my classes were back to back. Now, I have time to do stuff in between my classes, like run errands and just do something for myself. Due to my situation working part-time, online learning just makes my life a lot easier because I can spend my time doing other things.”
Student | Senior at Humboldt State University studying journalism
“The classes I have online from the university are not worth the risk [of getting sick] and [the subjects] work better online,” said Linton, who currently takes half of his classes in person and half online. His biggest worry about starting college is how to stay healthy during a pandemic.
“It’s a bit stressful to think that you can possibly be spreading Covid to people in your classes,” he said about his in-person classes. However, Linton enjoys the sense of community in-person courses bring but understands it’s not for everyone. “I think hybrid classes are [popular to] people who have more health risks than others.”
Student | Sophomore studying childhood education at Sonoma State University
“I like the flexibility of online classes, but I also like structure and having a routine [with in-person classes].” Evans has a neurological disability that makes it difficult to focus. “I have multiple autoimmune diseases that mess with my brain and so I am working with the disability resources department, and that gives me extra time on tests.”
Evans is still earning A’s and B’s with online instruction but said that she must work twice as hard — one reason she prefers in-person instruction. “With in-person classes, we have lectures and I am able to retain more information through lectures and notes.”
She is still hopeful for her eventual return to campus. “I hope they keep the mask mandate in place and require proof of vaccination since I am more susceptible to catching Covid,” she said.
Evans said that she is ready to go back to campus not just for in-person instruction, but also because she misses campus life. “I miss being active on campus, conversations with students, being in working groups. I was always the one organizing study groups, and I don’t have that anymore.”
Tung "Thomas" Tran
Student | Vietnamese international student and sophomore studying illustration at California State University Long Beach
Tran lived in Vietnam while taking online classes during his first year of college at California State University Long Beach in the fall of 2020. He said he couldn’t get proper feedback and help from his art professors during that time. The time difference between Vietnam and California made communicating with instructors more problematic, he said, and he had difficulty taking flattering photographs of his drawings, a task his professor required.
“It’s much easier with a person [in class] helping you,” Tran said. “If I’m going to draw something and I finish drawing it, then I have to take a picture. Then sometimes, the picture is bad, or the picture is not properly taken. You’re basically on your own doing that activity.”
However, Tran said he prefers online classes for lectures because it’s more “accessible” for students. “You can see the PowerPoints, articles and pictures easier online. In big lecture halls, it can be hard to hear what the professor is saying. At least with online classes, everyone can easily see and hear everything.”
Student | Junior at Fresno State University studying print and digital journalism
For Jannah Geraldo, a 20-year old print and digital journalism major at Fresno State University, returning to campus is still something she is getting accustomed to.
Geraldo, who returned to in-person classes in the 2021 fall semester, said the experience of going back to campus with the approximately 24,000 student population of Fresno State has felt different because of one common denominator: Covid-19. Although the pandemic has moderated things on campus, Geraldo is not scared.
“I feel pretty safe going in person,” said Geraldo, who returned to in-person classes after taking a hiatus during the beginning of the pandemic. One of the reasons she felt safe was because of the hybrid course option.
“The communication aspect is different with online courses since you are not in-person,” she said. “There is a weird gap of time between talking with professors and classmates that you don’t get in an in-person classroom.”
Geraldo said that one benefit of online learning versus in-person is that professors seem to respond more quickly to requests for help. Before the pandemic, she said, her professors would sometimes take days to respond to an email. Today, many respond within hours.
Geraldo said that she feels safe on campus because she is vaccinated, but she wants to get the booster shot as soon as possible. She hopes the majority of classes will be taught in-person sometime soon.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they push more for in-person classes, but they can’t avoid hybrid options anymore,” Geraldo said, “because students were exposed to it and now realize that it could be more accommodating to students’ personal schedules.”
Professor | Assistant political science professor at California State University Long Beach
“I don’t feel like a very good teacher on Zoom,” said Matthew Lesenyie, who teaches political science at California State University Long Beach.
Lesenyie says that teaching online classes can be equated to “defusing a bomb.”
“You arrive at the scene, class starts, and you have an hour and 10 minutes,” Lesenyie said. “In that time, you need to deliver the lecture you planned, but also, you have to solve any technical audio-visual problems, switch between share screen and groups and all that stuff.”
Lesenyie says that shift to online learning forced him to become his own tech person for his online classes. This took up a significant amount of time, unlike when he used to prepare for his in-person classes.
“Post-production work usually takes twice as long as the actual lecture. It isn’t anything like teaching before,” he said. “I’d say about 30 to 40% of my work now is technological work, and a smaller portion is focusing on the material.”
Lesenyie, who taught his first in-person class in the fall 2021 semester, says he initially felt “out of practice” teaching in a classroom again. “We were all conditioned for a year to social distance and now we got used to teaching in an online classroom. An internal challenge I had was just getting used to being around people. Even getting used to hearing my voice and projecting in a classroom, it’s a very basic thing but very weird to do it again.”
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