Honor society inductions, classes, school plays and spending time with friends: little things that most college students usually take for granted but are unable to enjoy due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
On March 16, Saint Peter’s University, a private college on JFK. Blvd. in Jersey City, suspended its face-to-face classes through the rest of the spring semester and permanently closed its residence halls on March 24. Only students under extenuating circumstances are allowed to stay.
For Matthew Goodman, a sophomore majoring in mathematics and minoring in secondary education, the transition has been bumpy. One problem has been motivation.
“… I feel less motivated working from home,” the Hoboken native said. “I need to be in a classroom to be engaged and to grasp the material properly.
Goodman also laments the one-way nature of virtual classrooms. Students and teachers don’t get to interact; students can’t get questions answered in real time.
“I can’t just read math and understand it. I need it taught to me so that I can fully understand it and grasp the material,” Goodman explained.
But at least Goodman’s classes take place during the day. Marta Ortega, a Saint Peter’s international student from Spain, does not have that luxury.
“I had to go back to Spain, so now I’m six hours ahead,” said Ortega, an international business major. “This makes it very complicated because one of my courses finishes at 3 a.m. I understand online courses are the only way to continue during this pandemic, but I strongly think it can be done differently.”
Saint Peter’s is not the only school that has been shut down due to COVID-19. On March 16, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered the closure of all public and private schools across the Garden State.
The way online classes are taught varies greatly, depending mostly on the professor. Some use online video chatting software such as Zoom or Google Hangouts, while others prefer to post assignments electronically. Blackboard, a digital platform where professors can upload assignments, quizzes and discussion boards, is often used.
According to Goodman, three of his professors used Google Meet once but may not continue to use it all the time; a fourth professor posted a lesson using Microsoft PowerPoint; and yet another professor videotaped himself lecturing and uploaded that.
On March 25, Saint Peter’s extended its spring semester deadlines for dropping courses with no repercussions and for converting courses from letter grading to pass/fail. Kean University in Union, NJ went one step further: It decided to let students choose the pass/fail option on up to two courses after grades from all courses are posted the end of the semester. Kean’s administration decided this in response to a petition the students had circulated on Change.org that garnered over 3,000 signatures.
As Goodman finishes up his courses off campus, he hopes the coronavirus pandemic will show St. Peters’ administration that, as a matter of course, professors need to receive more training on using online resources so they’re better able to handle crises like the coronavirus pandemic in the future.
“A lot of [my professors] had to learn on their own how to fully use Blackboard, Google Meet and other platforms. I feel that this should be taught to all faculty members,” he said. “We need to be prepared for anything.”
Header: Photo by Alexandra Antonucci