Masks Up, Screens On: Students navigate between in-person and remote classes

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When in person-classes are not available, students rely on using Zoom to connect with their professors.

Elizabeth Funderburk, Staff Writer

It is no surprise that this semester looks very different from the last one. Faces are covered by masks, hand sanitizer stations are everywhere, and student gatherings are few. The biggest difference of all might be the way students—and professors— learn. 

Most Austin College students decided to attend classes in person this fall. For many it was an easy decision; freshman Thomas Jolin was eager to come for social reasons. “I was very tired of being stuck at home,” he said.

For students like Jolin who are on campus, class structure varies from previous years. Due to COVID-19, new measures have been taken to ensure the safety of everyone at the College. Classes have been divided into in-person and online sections, with some rotating between the former and the latter while others are static. Student opinions on preferred learning style vary; freshman Megan Kiel said her opinion on her classes depended on the class size. “If it’s a small class, I like to be there in person,” she mentioned. “But, I think bigger classes work better on Zoom. However, sometimes the wifi goes down, and I’ve had issues where I got kicked out and couldn’t reconnect on my computer, so I had to use my phone.” 

Jolin, on the other hand, prefers his in-person classes to his online classes, explaining, “it is difficult for me to stay engaged and focused online.” In addition, he didn’t have mandatory online class meetings during his last few weeks of high school, so Zoom is an adjustment for him. “I could work at my own pace,” he said.

Meanwhile, few people seem to have issues during their in-person classes. “It’s been going very smoothly, and no one has had trouble wearing masks,” Kiel said. Jolin felt the same way saying students have been good about keeping their masks on and social distancing during class. Hopefully,  the collective responsibility will pay off and case numbers will continue to go down on campus.

However, students aren’t the only people affected by changes made as a result of the virus. Professor Audrey Flemming has been teaching remotely out of necessity. “I have two medical conditions that are autoimmune disorders that put me at a higher risk for getting COVID-19,” she explained. Coming back to campus simply would not be safe for her. “It makes it harder to foster a community environment on campus,” she said about teaching her students through Zoom. “It is also difficult to spontaneously respond to technology issues.” Despite being stuck at home for now, Flemming stays hopeful, saying, “I will absolutely be back in the classroom as soon as the pandemic is over.”

It’s unclear at this moment if Austin College will continue to offer in-person classes if the pandemic gets much worse, but by wearing masks and social distancing, ‘Roos are making sure they do their part to keep everyone healthy.