Students had the option to choose a fully remote experience for the spring semester. Photo courtesy of buildstack.com.
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Since the beginning of the fall semester, Butler University has given students the option of completing their coursework online in response to COVID-19. Students have the same option for the spring semester, and prior to the deadline to decide on Oct. 15, many have grappled with the decision of whether to stay at home or return to campus.
Maria Uebelhor, a junior strategic communications major, said her decision to operate remotely this semester was based on mental health rather than COVID-19 concerns.
“I think a lot of people might think [being remote is] COVID-related, or people are scared to be on campus because of COVID, but that wasn’t really my case,” Uebelhor said. “It was more of the online classes… I just knew it was better for my mental health to be at home if I was doing online classes because I didn’t have something to keep me busy.”
Uebelhor said she originally was planning on living in AV during the fall semester, and came in August to move her things into the apartment. Then, when Butler moved the first two weeks of classes online, she went home to Jasper, Indiana. When she came back for hybrid classes after the two weeks were up, she decided it was not the right fit for her.
Uebelhor said that the combination of Zoom and in-person classes didn’t feel like an effective learning environment, so she decided to return home. In the beginning, online classes were manageable, but as the semester is coming to a close, Uebelhor said studying for finals has been challenging.
“It was going good at the beginning, but now with midterms and everything, it’s hard to balance that,” Uebelhor said. “High school me, I never stayed up and studied for stuff, and now I would do that for school, but being at home I don’t do as much… my studying habits are just a lot different.”
Butler communications professor Nancy Whitmore understands how difficult online classes can be, for both students and professors. She is teaching completely remotely this year for health reasons, and can relate to many of the challenges that students have faced.
“It’s a lot of work… The main thing is putting up your lectures online and doing the powerpoints and writing the scripts, and those can take days to do… ,” Whitmore said. “You used to just take your notes and go in the classroom and you could rely on that interpersonal, on that ability to look and see if somebody doesn’t get it, and restate and continue on.”
Whitmore said she does think that recording lectures so students can access them at any time has been helpful in some ways. She misses the human connection from in-person classes, though.
Uebelhor shared a common sentiment. “I miss the teachers and stuff,” she said. “Going to coffee shops and studying with friends. I guess just being on campus in general I really miss.”
Uebelhor said she is planning on coming back to Butler in the spring and living in AV. She said she is lucky to be able to come back to the same room in the same apartment she had planned on living in for the fall. She is looking forward to a few different things in her return.
“I am excited just for the potential to be in-person,” Uebelhor said. “I don’t really love the winter, so just spring on campus probably is what I’m most looking forward to. And just being able to go to the library and that stuff.”
Still, not all remote students are planning on coming back in the spring. Genevieve Krygier, a first-year vocal performance and arts administration double major, said she is going to stay at home in Baltimore next semester.
“Nothing has really changed that much since the beginning of the fall semester,” Krygier said. “And it would be really complicated with housing and trying to get back on campus from not being on campus the first semester, it is just way too complicated to even think about right now.”
Krygier said that because she lives around nine hours from Indianapolis, she didn’t feel comfortable being so far from home during the pandemic. She said she feels the remote experience hasn’t had a terrible effect on her first year of college.
“Right now I don’t feel super out of touch, because I’ve been in contact with people, and they have said that they hardly even leave their room,” Krygier said. “And I’m still involved because I’m involved with Dance Marathon so I’m still involved with the community.”
Krygier said being a part of Dance Marathon has helped her feel some sort of connection to campus and to the university as a whole. She said she appreciates how hard her professors have worked to involve everyone during class.
“I think the professors have been doing a pretty good job with it,” Krygier said. “Especially with having people in the classroom and not in the classroom….They make me feel like I am important and part of the class.”