Covid Protocols Present Challenges, Opportunities

Last March the lives of Americans changed drastically as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Everyday routines were turned completely upside down, including jobs, shopping, even spending time outside. But education, in particular, saw significant disruptions. Most schools around the country were forced to change the way students attended classes, changing and adding rules and regulations that students are not accustomed to, such as wearing a mask when on campus, logging into zoom classes on time, and disinfecting everything in class rooms and campuses.

Hilbert College is no exception.

Alesia Hamm is taking all classes in person and said that it is much easier and more efficient when it comes to understanding her material. She believes that human interaction and face to face learning is crucial, especially during these stressful times.

However, having online options has helped Hamm keep up on her schoolwork, she said.

“Due to having an online option for classes and office hours, I am able to keep my grades up more compared to last year,” she said.

Sarah Kobler takes a few classes online and the rest are in person, even though she, and most other students, are not too fond of remote learning. She believes that grades and mental health are both impacted when not being face to face for classes.

When it comes to being at home, and maybe even in your own bedroom, it is easy to get distracted and maybe miss an important part of your class. “Sometimes I notice my classmates walking away from their computer screens for long periods of time,” Kobler said.

Professor Megan Witzleben, who teaches English at Hilbert, only taught one online class over the summer, but agrees that in-person classes are much easier to teach and feels her students learn more efficiently.   

“Preparation for teaching (online) becomes much more complicated and time consuming,” she said. “I am unable to know how well the students are retaining the information I teach, especially if I have to present a pre-recorded video or PowerPoint.”

It is harder for teachers to keep track of attendance when teaching through a computer screen and to know if a student is falling behind, Witleben added.

“It seems that students usually only pay attention over zoom when it is a one on one meeting.” she said.

However, the students and professor have said that one positive thing about online schooling is not having to take time away from extracurricular activities or hobbies.

“Because of the restrictions of staying on campus for events and other activities, I have more time to play basketball outside of school,” Hamm said.

Another positive attribution of online class is the increase in grades, Hamm and Kobler agreed. This is most likely due to being able to review courses and classes as much as needed, versus a once over in an in-person class.  

And for some students, the independence and free time available in quarantine can be beneficial in some ways, Hamm said.

“Because I have the extra time to do more of what I really enjoy, such as basketball and enjoying being outside,” she said. “I feel my mental health is much better.”

Still, remote learning can be difficult psychologically. When students and teachers spend more time at home and most of their days on a computer, their mental health and even physical health may be affected.

Witzleban said that she and anyone with children need a strong support system. Without this support, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut both physically and mentally.  

“Being stuck inside all day everyday has a negative impact on mental health,” she said. “Especially since I have young children at home.”