Olivia Weinberg / Sun Assistant News Editor

On April 6, Cornell will begin its courses. Several weeks behind other schools who have had mixed experiences.

April 3, 2020

Virtual Classes Beyond Cornell: How Other College Students Are Coping With Digital Transition

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With Cornellians’ three-week hiatus from classes to cease on Monday, students will soon have to adjust their computer habits to incorporate online classes. With the unprecedented transition comes academic challenges, new for students used to studying at libraries and being able to see their professors face-to-face.

Students at other universities have been taking online classes for weeks now, with their experiences varying from course to course, depending on the courses’ format and resources.

Tamara Puskarevic, a sophomore at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is a biomedical engineering student. She is now virtually taking a circuits class with a significant hands-on component.

“We would usually be making circuits by hand during lab blocks, but now we can only use simulations to complete the circuitry assignments, since we do not have all the materials we need,” Puskarevic said. “Putting together a physical circuit is more intuitive and a better learning experience, in my opinion.”

Puskarevic has found mixed results with the different ways her lecture classes have adapted to teaching online.

“The classes that have videos posted online are more confusing and I have trouble keeping up with them. My study habits have dwindled a bit with the recorded video classes, but I feel like I have a bit more time to go over powerpoints than before,” Puskarevic said.

Isaiah Johnson, a literature and history major at Harvard University with a minor in African American Studies, is a second semester senior. Generally, Johnson found that classes based in lecture or discussion are easier to handle over Zoom, while more interactive classes cause more difficulty.

“My thesis tutorial is almost exactly the same as it was in school, we are just meeting over Zoom instead of in person. That has been a pretty seamless transition, because it’s a conversation and that’s easy to do over the web,” Johnson said.

However, his linguistics class is having more difficulty transitioning to online learning.

“We just moved into our phonetics unit, which has to do with practicing sounds out loud so we can tell the difference. That has been more challenging,” he said. “The only thing we don’t get is feedback from the professor, but it isn’t too hard to figure out on our own.”

While Johnson is disappointed to end his college career online, he said he is more concerned about finding work post-graduation than he is about handling digital classes. He intended to begin his job search after he submitted his thesis, but classes were canceled the week after he submitted it.

“I’m a little late to the game on the job search,” he said. “I haven’t really fully figured out how I am going to approach that, and that is my biggest concern right now.”

Puskarevic and Johnson, despite their very different majors, class years and coursework, share the common experience of living at home while taking college classes — something both have found challenging.

“Being back at home is difficult since I do not get much privacy to do my work or just talk to my friends,” Puskarevic said. “At college, I could go wherever I wished to study, and could stay up until 3 a.m. studying for something. At home, I am confined to my room and I cannot stay up past midnight.”

“Being home has had a pretty big impact on my study habits. I have to do chores. Both of my parents work, my mom freelances and my dad full-time,” Johnson said. “Having me and my brother and my sister and my parents home have made the chores ramp up a lot.”

However, Johnson said that, despite these concerns, he will find it easier to adapt to online coursework over time.

“I am still settling into my new routine. It will get better with time, but motivation has been the biggest challenge for me.”