LULA BURKE, Special to The Denisonian—Connecting with peers and faculty is a trial for any incoming college student. However, the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly complicated the process for both remote and on-campus students. While some students view their new peers from a safe six-foot distance, others navigate the complex reality of a completely virtual learning experience.
When Adina Weiss ‘24 learned that all of her classes would be online, she decided to study remotely from her home in Dayton, Ohio. She said that having a semester of online schooling during her last months of high school helped her prepare a routine.
“I always do my classes, homework and study[ing] at my desk so I can have a designated space for schoolwork,” she said. “I try to get outside as much as I can throughout the day to get some fresh air!”
She said that this format of schooling has not been overly inhibitive to her professional relationships: Her relationships with other students, though, have suffered.
“[My professors] have all been super great and very accommodating with remote students,” Weiss said. “Because I am not on campus, I never see Denison students outside of Zoom, so I feel it is very difficult to make friends.”
Remote Spanish professor Mary Beaton said that in many ways, her job required the same kinds of adaptations that Weiss mentioned. She chose to teach her classes online for various reasons—like many, she had to weigh the health of her family and the experience she provided for Denison students. Likewise, she was concerned about the logistics of teaching a language class in masks, which relies both on auditory input and “visual cues.”
“[Because] there is only one teacher, students need to work in pairs/small groups to get enough language practice,” she said. “I didn’t feel that this….would make sense in a classroom where [students] had to be six feet apart.”
Beaton now teaches from her home in Columbus, a 40 minute drive from campus. She tries to maintain as personal of a class as possible through Zoom breakout rooms, smaller class sizes and shifted schedules. Similarly to Weiss, she expressed concern for students trying to make friends.
“I have found it a little harder to connect with students, but it has been less of a problem than I worried it might be,” Beaton said. “I definitely feel that it is harder for students to create relationships with each other because they don’t have the situation of meeting the people that sit around them.”
In a survey she conducted, 25% of students reported that their “work is suffering because of everything going on in the world.” Beaton expressed her empathy and confidence in the Denison community.
“I have taught at other institutions, and I can really say that Denisonians are exceptional,” she said. “You can do this.”
In an earlier statement from University President Adam Weinberg, it was made clear that the faculty members are doing their best to create an equitable learning environment. Likewise, the administration is working to ensure that students’ social lives are as fun as they are safe.
“Regardless of where you are (campus or remote) and where your faculty are (campus or remote), faculty are working to make sure classes are delivered at the highest level,” he said.