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College students adapt to online classes

A few weeks ago, Savannah Rendon was looking forward to spring break to get away from her classmates.

Rendon, 24, is a DPT student at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and Sharyland 2014 graduate. Every day, from 8 am through 5 p.m., she is surrounded by her class of 40.

The Student Services Building at the Edinburg campus of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Progress Times photo by Jose De Leon III

“We see each other all day, every day and I wanted a break,” Rendon said of her classmates. “Now I want that back.”

Currently, Rendon’s classmates are her dogs as she takes online courses at her mother’s home in Mission after Hardin-Simmons University became one of the thousands of universities that closed in the country for the rest of the semester to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“I understand why the schools closed, we don’t know the severity of everything just yet so we aren’t sure what we can do besides stopping large crowds from gathering,” Rendon said. “It’s been challenging because we do a lot of hands-on learning and I pray to get back to that hopefully this summer so that my class can still graduate December 2021.”

Classes for Rendon usually consisted of lectures and then a clinical practicum for students to practice what they’ve learned. Fridays consist of students shadowing physical therapists for a hands-on experience.

Now, with online classes, Rendon watches video lectures on Zoom, a video conference app that connects her and her classmates to each other for lectures.

“I had to perform my practicum on my mom but we’re gonna start doing less practicums,” Rendon said. “This is the third week of online classes and I miss interactions with everyone. It’s very different when you’re in a classroom writing stuff on a paper and participating in labs, to watching videos away from classmates and taking tests online. We’re supposed to be a hands-on profession, but we really aren’t getting a lot of the experience we’re supposed to during this time. Being in our homes is not something we prefer. Our professors know that, and they are trying to postpone labs to provide us with the best education possible.”

 For Sabrina Fisher, a junior attending the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the idea of online classes is one she’s familiar with. The marketing major said in the spring semester, all her five classes were online.

“So I’m already used to the online learning system and didn’t have to get used to it,” Fisher said. “A lot of the classes are assignments provided through Blackboard and some discussions and I didn’t have to learn how to use it on a short notice. I know that’s not the same for other classmates though.”

Fisher is balancing schoolwork with a part time job at the Texas International Produce Association. She said she took advantage of an extended spring break by studying and catching up on assignments.

She recommended students make sure they understand the importance of time management.

“Since everything is online I can definitely see a lot of people slacking off but they shouldn’t,” Fisher said. “Put everything in your calendar to constantly remind yourself of what you’re working on, that has helped me a lot.”

Anysha Trevino, a junior at the University of Houston, said she is finding the at home setting distracting.

“We’re in the first week of online classes and it’s weird, I’ve taken all of my previous classes in person,” Trevino said. “Being face to face with the professor helps put me into a mindset necessary to learn, having to adapt to this setting has been a hard adjustment.”

Trevino said she was already home in Edinburg during spring break when she got the news of her university closing for the rest of the semester. She said she found the news to be “shocking.”

“So many of us were getting ready to go back to school and finish the semester when we got the news. At first I thought it’d be a two week thing, then we quickly realized it’d be longer,” Trevino said. “It’s very different. A lot of my professors have become lenient with their deadlines and have uploaded video lectures, it’s been helpful and accommodating. I’m making sure I still get an education even with it getting harder to stay focused. It will be a day to day task.” 

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