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Gradual Transition From ‘Zoom U’ Could Be More Challenging Than Students Expect

Last week, Penn State announced that it plans on fully returning to on-campus learning next fall. Therefore, students can expect to see an increased number of traditional, in-person classes, leaving the days of Zoom University behind.

While the news provided encouragement for students who’ve remained cautiously optimistic for a return to normalcy, some have become complacent and content with taking classes from the comfort of their own homes.

Initially, the evolution from in-person instruction to an unintended virtual classroom experience served as an inevitable culture shock for all. With that said, students have been removed from “normalcy” for nearly a year. Most people suggest that habits can form and stick in as quickly as 18 days.

Many freshmen who finished their final months of high school through an array of mediocre technological means haven’t physically sat in a classroom since last March. Large percentages of the same students who now have the opportunity to experience at least one in-person college class this semester are still opting for mundane Zoom lectures.

Of course, there are two sides to every coin. Despite the increased vaccination rates present across the country, the majority of college students are still within the high-risk category in regards to the ease of coronavirus contraction. Moreover, the larger part of the Penn State student population won’t be eligible for the vaccination until the semester’s end, at least.

On the other end, students who have already picked up the virus or those who simply don’t feel impacted by the pandemic in their day-to-day lives are still electing to skip out on the in-person choice. Personally, on my first day of in-person class for an elective dominated by a freshman majority, just two people in a class of nearly 50 students were physically in attendance.

In other general education classes controlled by the new-student community, the trend has held constant. Despite the constant rumbling among the student body surrounding Zoom learning, students have become complacent in seizing the increased number of opportunities on campus.

“Last semester, I had a Spanish class, and I had 15 people in my class,” freshman Lance Rich said. “Usually, we had about three people show up. You can kind of see the same story [this semester]. I have an accounting lab right now with about 16 people, and about six people show up.”

Owen Rappa, another Penn State student, has also seen the puzzling tendency first-handed during his initial two semesters on campus.

“I had one [in-person] class [in the fall], and I think there were around 40 people in it, and I would, a lot of days, be the only one in there,” Rappa said. “Even though you’re still getting the same experience [online], I was able to readily ask my professor questions a lot easier, and be able to get more out of it just by being in there.”

There is no problem with attending class online. Despite the never-ending laundry list of challenges the pandemic has thrown our way, students should be thankful for Penn State’s resources in continuing to teach as seamlessly as possible.

However, if we all want campus-life to return to its intended state, it may require more effort on the part of the students. If you feel as though you’re healthy enough to attend class, take the extra step and wake up earlier to get there on time rather than logging into class lying down in bed.

“I think that’s really sad because I do think there is a lot more benefits to be had in-person when it comes to teaching the curriculum and learning, but also when it comes to teamwork and developing relationships with other students outside of the classroom,” Rich said.

Additionally, in preparation for a fully in-person instruction model proposed for next fall, it may be helpful to begin studying as if all tests were currently in-person rather than banking on the luxury of open-note availability.

“I think a lot of people are accustomed, and I know I am, to having notes spread out and having the majority of exams being open-browser,” Rappa said. “Having to really study and commit to memorizing things will be a big adjustment to get back to.”

As the weather begins to warm during the transition from the cold, Happy Valley winter into the blossoming spring months, campus should begin to return to its most active state in over a year. Although health risks must stay at the forefront of our minds, we should all take advantage of the progressive reopening of safely executed in-person opportunities the university has to offer.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a freshman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in journalism. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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