After spending much of the past year and a half attending college classes on Zoom, whether that be from a dorm room, home, or even horizontally in bed, in-person courses are in full bloom at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) this fall semester. While being in an actual classroom setting may be refreshing for some, there has been little to no transition from online learning to in-person. It’s difficult to say whether normally attending classes has been improving student mental health and engagement, enhancing stress or both.
From attending class in a room by yourself to a lecture hall filled with over 200 people, students have mixed feelings about returning to the “normal” classroom experience.
Many other students agree. “I missed in person classes so much,” said junior Phoebe Adame. “Coming in person is such a better way for people to learn.”
Teaching assistants also had to change their meetings and content for an in-person setting. Teaching assistant and graduate student Ashley Grengs commented, “I find myself more productive and energized teaching in person. I really feed off the students’ excitement and questions to learn more about the subject.”
However, with a different and more interactive semester, students are also bound to be overwhelmed – both with the number of people and academic schedules. “I was really excited to transition back, but I do feel a lot busier now,” commented junior Eleanor Braun.
Junior Madison Furnari agreed, “After a year and a half of online classes, it has been hard to get back into a routine.”
The number of people in a classroom has also come as a shock to many students. For students more sensitive to disease or nervous about coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, attending in-person classes can be a struggle.
“I am all online right now because I am not comfortable in a classroom,” explained senior Emily Clark. “I wish people would take the pandemic more seriously so students such as myself can have the in-person experience again without the anxiety of worrying about COVID and possibly transmitting it to family members at risk.”
Faculty are also experiencing a transition as well. From having to adapt or completely change course and lab curriculums to online settings to having to change them back, they have experienced almost double the workload this past year and a half. They are also responsible for ensuring students wear their masks properly during class to keep the UNH community safe.
Jessica Ernakovich, a professor in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA), explained the difficulties experienced in teaching a several hundred student class. “Having to interrupt the class to tell everyone to wear their masks is disrupting,” Ernakovich commented. “And sometimes they still don’t even do it.”
With the recent rise in cases, students are beginning to grow concerned that for most classes, Zoom accommodations still are not being made. “I have three friends in quarantine right now,” said Braun. “I have no idea how they are learning the material I learn in class.”