Friday, January 28, 2022

MSU students react to the move to virtual learning

January 10, 2022
<p>Maya Salamey, a then-rising sophomore at MSU, worked on homework for her summer classes in her dorm Holden Hall on MSU&#x27;s campus on June 24, 2021. Salamey makes a to-do list to help keep her organized with her online classes. </p>

Maya Salamey, a then-rising sophomore at MSU, worked on homework for her summer classes in her dorm Holden Hall on MSU's campus on June 24, 2021. Salamey makes a to-do list to help keep her organized with her online classes.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

On Dec. 31, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. Stanley sent a campus-wide email reverting MSU's intent to start the spring 2022 semester in person.

Classes will be held primarily remotely on Jan. 10 and for at least three weeks of the semester, Stanley wrote in the email. 

The email stated that while on-campus housing and facilities will be open, the majority of MSU’s classes will be held online for at least three weeks.

The new decision sent waves of mixed emotions across campus for some students who had been anticipating another in-person semester.

“I was really upset at President Stanley’s email,” social work sophomore Ava Ballagh said in a text. “I understand why we need to do it, but it really sucks. I’ve spent the last two years on and off online and I just want a sense of normalcy.”

The announcement comes in light of a U.S. Department of Education report that found that the pandemic, and virtual learning, has negatively impacted students’ academic growth and has deepened educational disparities in access and opportunity. 

Overall, Spartans seem to agree with these findings, expressing that they find it more difficult to truly engage in their coursework and campus life when everything is over the internet. 

“It’s my final semester here at MSU and while my professors do their best, I know my education will suffer being online,” media and information senior Daniel Isabella said in a text. “My degree is very hands-on and technical and it really can’t be translated to a Zoom class well.”

However, some students are enthusiastic about the switch, citing a preference for online learning and a belief that virtual learning is the safest option in the midst of Michigan's COVID-19 spike.

"I was kinda relieved (about the switch) because with literally almost everyone I know getting sick, with COVID or not, i was nervous about going back right away," English and psychology senior Emma Clemons said in a text. "I especially was nervous because I had a 250 person lecture which I was hoping would go virtual."

Still, some students feel frustration and exhaustion with virtual learning.

“Being a transfer student and spending my first year at MSU online was honestly hard for me as I was looking forward to meeting new people,” elementary education senior Anna Carpenter said. “Going online for this semester will affect how I interact with others from MSU as it will be mostly through a screen or social media as opposed to engaging in person.”

This is not the first time some MSU students have experienced a three-week move to remote learning.

On March 12, 2020, Gov. Whitmer declared that all K-12 schools must operate remotely from Monday, March 16 to Sunday, April 5. 

However, by the end of those three weeks, Whitmer had already issued a new declaration: Schools would remain virtual through the end of the semester. 

During this time period, Michigan was averaging around 1,000 COVID-19 cases a day. Today, Michigan is averaging over 20,000 COVID-19 cases.

In the midst of the Omicron variant and the unknowns of the effect it will have on campus, students expressed worry that the remote learning will extend past the originally scheduled three weeks.

“My biggest worry was and is ‘What does three weeks actually mean?’ Isabella said in a text. “I know there is a lot of uncertainty for everyone, but it feels like MSU is constantly claiming short deadlines for things and then extending them in perpetuity. It would be better to hear ‘until further notice’ if that’s what ‘three weeks’ really means.”

Students are also questioning the effectiveness of pausing in-person learning but still allowing on-campus living.

“How does closing masks-required and spaced classrooms but keeping the no-masks cafeteria and dorms open make any sense,” chemistry freshman Audrey Courneya said in a text. “We'll be around still. The classroom doesn't spread COVID, social events do.”

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Yet, through all the questions, frustrations and disappointments, most students are understanding, and even appreciative, of why the university decided to make the switch.

“My initial reaction to President Stanley’s email was ‘Oh, no ... not again,’" education sophomore Autumn Turner said in a text. “It just seems that COVID is a huge setback. Soon as it gets better, it gets worse. But, you have to be considerate of everyone’s health and safety. This time it’s sort of understandable due to the increased amount of cases in 2021 which are higher than the cases were in 2020. Overall, I just worry and hope these three weeks doesn’t be extended, but if it have to, I understand. We are Spartans, we will achieve any obstacle thrown at us.”

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