Students Weigh in About the Return to School

by Madalyn Johnson & Victor Franco, Web Editor & Staff Writer 

As students enter the third week of the semester, many are beginning to adjust to learning in a variety of ways. In upping health and safety measures and abiding to necessary social distancing rules due to COVID-19, Manhattan College made the decision to go hybrid, offering both remote and in-person classes. Students have had mixed feelings on learning through a hybrid model. Due to the integration of remote learning this semester, plans for learning on-campus this fall have abruptly changed for all of Manhattan College services.

Jose Guzman, a freshman studying chemical engineering, decided to do classes remotely this semester. Not living close enough to campus to commute, Guzman came down to the decision that going online would be the best decision even though problems like losing internet connection and not being able to make a personal connection with professors were expected.

“For the first week for some reason, I was having internet problems,” Guzman said. “All the professors, they all sounded like robots. It was very bad. Like even now I still have a little more distraction, sometimes I lose focus on my phone.”

Guzman also shared that in classes where professors are teaching students both remotely and in-person, it appears they have difficulty focusing on the two sides of the classroom: the students in-person and working remotely.

“I think teachers are doing the best they can, trying to teach two classes at the same time, in-person and remote, but keeping the engagement with remote and on-campus students is very difficult and different,” Guzman said.

Sophomore Genesis Lora, a resident student studying civil engineering, is not worried about completing her schoolwork partially online considering it’s her second year at Manhattan College. In comparison to upperclassmen, Lora feels incoming freshmen may have a more difficult time adapting to classes since they’re trying to adjust to college all while learning how to manage classes taught online and in-person.

“Since I’m a sophomore I am already used to the workload, so I know what to expect. So it’s an easier transition than a freshman [coming from] high school,” Lora said.

Lora also spoke about her concerns regarding the procedures Manhattan College is taking to preserve a healthy environment for their students. Although face masks on campus are mandatory, she is concerned about what happens when commuters are not on campus. To fully protect the health of students and faculty working on campus, Lora suggests COVID tests should be taken more often during the semester.

“I do think we should at least get tested before school starts, in the middle and then towards the end of the semester so when the next semester arrives, we know what people previously did not have COVID,” she said.

With schoolwork being taught this semester online and in-person, services at Manhattan College, like the Center for Academic Success, are working hard to provide students with essential learning resources, as they would in any academic year. When planning how the center can help students this semester, Sujey Ramos, the center’s director, kept in mind that many students may be feeling overwhelmed about doing schoolwork online despite expecting it this semester.

“I think students are feeling anxious,” Ramos said. “I think that while they did have some time, being in the remote online environment last semester, it’s still a big transition. I think there’s a lot to remember, it’s a lot to keep track of, a lot of professors are doing different things, departments and organizations are doing a lot of different things and so a new semester is exciting but I know there’s a lot on everyone’s plate.”

To accommodate all students who are learning differently, the Center for Academic Success has decided to operate both in-person and remotely. Students who are studying subject matters that focus more on calculating and problem-solving such as business, engineering and math have in-person tutoring available. Services, like the Writing Center, have employees working at the center, but tutoring sessions are online only. Students can make appointments for online sessions through Jasper Connect.

Taking note of the technical issues that can happen when trying to educate through video chat, the Center for Academic Success has planned to use a software that provides many useful features suitable for teaching.

“We use a web-based software called GoBoard. What we like about GoBoard is that there’s a virtual whiteboard and Google Meet doesn’t really have any features similar to a whiteboard and it’s not very reasonable for us to expect all of our tutors to conduct a session with a document camera. ”

The center’s goals of having in-person and remote tutoring available were to support the college’s decision to follow a hybrid model and to ensure that all students, regardless of where they are learning from this semester, feel connected. Ramos points out that the remote resources may even be an advantage for the number of students commuting this semester.

“Now that everyone can be done online, there’s a lot more access and availability for commuters to meet with a tutor,” she said. “You don’t have to stay on campus in order to meet with someone, or vice versa.”

Junior Nadine Salameh is a first-time commuter student majoring in radiation therapy, who is pleased to see how the college has made hybrid learning manageable for students. Salameh explained how the preparedness that went into this semester will make a dramatic difference in how students are able to handle their work, as compared to this past year’s spring semester.

“I think spring semester, last spring, was the hardest because literally it came without warning,” she said. “But, I feel after we had this summer to prepare, I think the faculty has done a great job of laying it all out and I think they’ve been there for us more than ever with everything being virtual now.”

Transitioning from fully being on campus to partially being there, Salameh assumed she would feel disengaged with the Jasper community but shared that the resources and assistance Manhattan has provided hasn’t made her feel so disconnected. Like Ramos, Salameh agrees that the number of learning resources available now online this semester has helped more students be aware that they can easily access extra help for school if needed.

“So a majority of the people in my program, from day one, were always commuters and I think as a resident I utilized the Center for Academic Success more than they did, I don’t even think they knew it was a thing,” Salameh said.

Moving forward, Salameh and many other students are hopeful the fall 2020 semester will continue to run accordingly.

“Last semester I struggled,” Salameh said. “I mean nobody really knew what was going on but I feel like this semester I definitely have a better hold on it and I feel like the teachers do as well. So, I think we’re all doing better collectively, learning online. Teachers kind of know what to expect and they’ve had time to prepare the whole summer.”