Jennifer Ayers, a first-year student at CCBC Essex, woke up at 8:55 am to get situated for her 9:05-10:05 am music 101 class on Friday. She quickly brushes her teeth and pins her hair up into a messy bun, running downstairs to grab a strawberry pop-tart before heading back up to her cozy room. She does not need long to get ready for class, since she stays in her fuzzy pink pajama pants and a comfortable loose t-shirt.
Climbing back under her plain teal covers with her back up against her pillow, she opens her laptop and clicks on the Zoom app. After entering the class meeting number, a bunch of screens pop up with familiar faces. Some of the students have their video chat off and almost everyone has their microphones off.
She does not have either one on because the professor does not require it and she feels comfortable this way. The professor begins with the class session and she wishes the class was in person because she loves music. It is hard to stay as engaged in the class discussion when she was so used to everyone playing music together in person.
CCBC Essex, along with many other campuses, are open for students to go to the library or the college bookstore, and some other classes such as labs are also taking place on campus. Most classes are still remote or were switched to remote learning not long before Spring term began. Students and staff who are actually coming to campus are continuing to follow safety protocols while things slowly get back to pre-pandemic “normal.”
While many students and faculty are adjusting to being online full time, some people still have to report to campus for various work-related tasks. There are still several protocols that they need to follow in order to stay safe while on any CCBC campus.
Some of these protocols include being stopped right before you can enter the campus where they ask you a few questions such as, “if you have experienced certain symptoms” and “if you have been around anyone with COVID in the last ten days?” They also take your temperature to check for a fever. Lastly, they provide you with a smiley face sticker which will show others that you have been screened and are safe to be in the buildings.
Another protocol that is followed strictly on campus is social distancing. These directions/signs are normally in sight at entrances and exits, and there are stickers on the floor to direct where you need to be standing.
Lastly, this protocol is the same one that is required for anywhere you go these days, which is face coverings. It is required for any person that enters the campus, and cloth and disposable masks are only allowed. Details about requirements for being on campus can be found on the CCBC website.
Other safety measures still need to be taken such as using hand sanitizer that is provided throughout the campus and washing your hands regularly. Students and staff are encouraged to wipe down their workspace while cleaning staff clean the rooms.
Some students are enjoying having more time on their hands with their flexible schedules. They like that they can work at their own pace and not have to deal with the stressful school environment.
Sylvia Van Fleet, a freshman at CCBC Essex said, “I have actually enjoyed doing school online because it has made my schedule more flexible, and I can go to class in the comfort of my room. The drawback of online class is that it can make communication with professors more difficult, but all of my professors have been quick responders and very helpful.”
However, other students prefer learning face-to-face and enjoy the school environment and making friends. They like having a reason to wake up every morning and leave the house. It also gave them more motivation being in school, but now lacking that motivation because of the freedom to push assignments to the last minute.
Jennifer Ayers, another freshman said, “Online learning has had a huge impact on me. I’m so used to being in a classroom with a teacher physically in front of us. It has been okay so far, just a struggle getting used to everything being on the computer, which I was not familiar with before. Since the pandemic started, I have adapted and got used to using everything such as Zoom, Teams, and Blackboard.”
Students are not the only ones that are facing challenges with all the latest changes. Professors have had to prepare for these changes and had to change some of their teaching techniques to fit with the new learning environment. Some professors even had to reconsider their grading and evaluation in general.
Assistant Professor, Jeremy Caplan said, “For the past 13 years I have only taught one online course each term so the biggest adjustment for me was to mentally prepare to be on my computer for many more hours a day. I prefer teaching in person, so the lack of human interaction has also been a major adjustment for me. Other major adjustments were changing my schedule to adapt to the amount of grading that is in our online courses and to find new ways to keep my students engaged. I am very proud of our new Quarantine Section on the school newspaper, and think it illustrates how well my journalism students have adapted to the past school year. Having said all this, I am looking forward to being back in the classroom for fall.”
Professors often face uncertain and difficult situations, but lately there has been more of these situations that require adjustment. Faculty have not only had to adapt themselves, but they have had to help students stay on top of things and find new strategies to keep them engaged.
Dr. Jessica Floyd, an Associate Professor of English said, “There were a fair number of changes that had to be made during the 2020 school year. COVID-19 meant that all classes needed to be moved from face-to-face to the new modality of synchronous remote and faculty needed to learn how to facilitate learning effectively in the new environment. In the summer and fall of 2020, we had to continue navigating the pandemic while offering classes that met the needs of students. Probably the most difficult part of the transition was all the uncertainty.”
Floyd also said, “This year has been a challenging one, but it has been made possible by the hard work of faculty, staff, and students. CCBC is made up of an incredibly resilient and dedicated group of people and I believe that we all managed to navigate the struggles of COVID-19 well.”
Professors and students had to really work together during this time so that the semesters ran smoothly for everyone. Although there have been numerous challenges during this change, many have experienced new things and have learned how to adapt to stressful situations. The pandemic has made professors think out of the box and forced students to take on more responsibility, but many agree that they are ready to go back to “normal” for the Fall 2021 term.