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Students navigate uncharted territory as pandemic forces education online

College across the US are resorting to virtual teaching methods, such as online classes for students, in a nationwide effort to contain coronavirus outbreaks.

Posted: Mar 25, 2020 4:00 AM


Students across the country are making the transition to an online format to finish out the school year. It may seem like a mini vacation to some but for others, their workload just got a bit harder.

Several universities and public and private schools decided to close their campuses to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

While students are preparing or going through the shift in learning environments, they're sharing their experiences on TikTok, the popular short video social media app.

Here's a look at what a few of their academic lives look like right now:

'I didn't pay all this tuition money to sit on my floor'

Syera Plitt is a freshman at the University of Southern California and a dance major at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. She's been taking online courses for the past three days.

"Normally I'm in the studios almost all day being physically active," she told CNN. "I alternate daily between about three hours of rehearsals on some days or improvisation and conditioning classes on other days."

The campus officially put students on Zoom, an online video conference service.

"It has made all of my classes less active," she said. "My classmates and I are confined to limited amounts of space (dorms, hallways, outdoors, etc.) where we can't physically do what we normally do. We meet with our professors online for modified classes."

Plitt is concerned this will affect her grades and performances that were scheduled for April.

"My major requires my classmates and I to congregate," she said. "We kind of have to be together to rehearse, learn and perform with each other. If we don't get our allotted rehearsal time we won't be ready to perform, and there is a good chance my performances will either be canceled or postponed."

Plitt said she feels bad for seniors whose projects are required to be finished and performed in order for them to graduate.

"Our performances are graded, our finals are active, so I'm not sure what they (the university) will do to combat that." she said. "It's also money wasting. This is more of a university issue, but I didn't pay all this tuition money to sit on my floor and barely move. But at this point it's out of our hands."

Film students halt production

Camryn Brescia is a film student at New York University and made a TikTok of her professor giving her online class a song break in between lessons.

The song break video came out of a general education class that's supposed to have 300 students in it, she said. And yet, her professors have made the lectures more personal and fun.

"Online classes as a film student have been quite strange," she told CNN. "As my classes are either production related or large discussions about film we've watched together, it's pretty difficult to do over what is essentially a giant FaceTime."

Brescia, a commuter student, said her classes at NYU switched to an online format Wednesday. She said her production class is posing a challenge.

"It's extremely hard to get the full experience since the class is extremely hands-on," she said. "We're set to make a few short films for the class before the semester ends and NYU has halted all production of that till further notice so it's been rather disappointing for the film kids."

Preparing to go online-only

Trevor Patchen, a high school senior in Warren, Ohio, told CNN students were sent an online survey assessing the connectivity of each household on March 11.

Patchen said online classes will start Tuesday.

"Friday was the first day off of school since the governor instituted the three-week close yesterday," he said. "What it looks like we're doing is having online assignments through Google Classroom and Renweb. We're also using Remind to set up notifications about work."

If students or families don't have reliable access to the tools they need to complete assignments, Patchen said the school notice stated arrangements can be made on a case-by-case basis.

Will there be more cheating on exams?

Tia Stamp-Querry, an engineering freshman at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, posted a video on TikTok about the struggle of remembering all the math lessons she learned in class.

"It's going to be hard for some like in math," Stamp-Querry told CNN. "Getting questions answered is going to be hard."

Stamp-Querry has four classes on her plate. She said professors told her all of the exams and quizzes will be online now, with some professors posting video lessons and others wanting to try a FaceTime-like platform.

"I'm sure the professors aren't happy with the amount of cheating that's going to go on with online exams and quizzes," she said. "We aren't starting until March 26 because many professors weren't fully prepared for this."

Though she hasn't officially transitioned she said some of her classes already give out online homework. The only difference now will be that exams will be given online, too.

Stamp-Querry said it's stressful and she knows her peers are upset about not seeing their friends, but she's a bit relieved.

"I was in the middle of a project that was killing me and now it's canceled," she said. "I can relax and I already do most of my assignments online so it won't be much of a change. The only real change will be the lectures and the exams online."

FaceTiming into graduation

Nora Alghazaly studies behavioral and biological sciences at the University of Michigan. She lives at home and not in the dorms, so she wasn't forced to pack up and head home as a result of the university's closure.

"As of right now our professors are working very hard to transition our courses to an online format for the remainder of the semester, which is until April 17," Alghazaly told CNN. "We are patiently waiting to hear back from them and hopefully begin this transition on the 16th of Monday."

As a senior expecting to graduate in May, she made a TikTok joking about FaceTiming into her college graduation with her parents and grandmother in the background.

"Grandma with the harmal/sage because she thinks that's the cure for this virus," she wrote on her video.

With regard to her graduation itself, Alghazaly said she isn't worried and she made the TikTok video for laughs.

"I'm hoping that America has this together and will resolve this issue fairly quickly," she said. "My worries are with the ones who are facing hardships during these times."

Uncharted territory

Sharnelia Johnson teaches seventh- and eighth-graders in the South Bronx in New York City. Her school closed Friday, a few hours before she made a video about how she's handling being a teacher during coronavirus.

"I'm glad we closed, she told CNN. "I want my students to be safe and not susceptible to this virus."

In the video, which was meant to be funny, Johnson can be seen wearing gloves as she interacts with her students. As students approach her for a high five she can be seen practicing social distancing.

"We are teaching from online now," she said. "Which is something I know 99% of us have never done before."

Johnson said her school surveyed students and equipped everyone with laptops before the school canceled classes.

Practice for the future

Ari Green is a high school senior at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, and told CNN his experience with his online classes has been great so far.

Green's virtual day consists of six classes from 10 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. His first day of formal classes was Thursday and they will extend through next week. He said his classes consist of 16-25 kids.

"Going to a physical school my whole academic life, I was unsure how it would work out," he said. "But the school administration is forward thinking and the teachers have been fantastic working through this very sensitive time."

Green posted a video to TikTok asking his teacher if he could use the restroom with the caption, "Virtual classes be like." In the video, his teacher responds by laughing and saying "Do you have to ask me that here? Go get out of here."

"Strictly being on a screen could obviously be distracting, but this is good practice for when I'm working in the future and have meetings online," he said. "Thankfully the teachers are well organized and are able to keep the students engaged."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 32581

Reported Deaths: 542
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Reported Deaths: 15583
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San Francisco11076101
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Kings763177
Sonoma7369122
Marin6694117
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Madera448165
Placer356745
San Luis Obispo354429
Butte281944
Yolo279555
Santa Cruz23309
Sutter170511
Napa166913
San Benito134011
Yuba11537
El Dorado11094
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Shasta80617
Lassen7400
Glenn5783
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Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18715
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Trinity160
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