Students attempt to finish CORE requirements despite the pandemic

Students are finishing their CORE requirements despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of butler.edu.

ELLIE ALLEN | NEWS EDITOR | emallen2@butler.edu

As students begin scheduling classes for the fall 2021 semester on April 5, the realization is setting in that COVID-19’s effects will be felt even after campus life returns to normal. One area that has been impacted by the pandemic is Butler’s CORE curriculum.

While some CORE classes were unchanged by COVID-19, several had to make modifications in order to continue functioning, including the Physical Well-Being class and Indianapolis Community Requirement

Donald Braid, the director of the Center for Citizenship and Community, said ICR courses have been taught in a primarily virtual format due to COVID-19 and some classes have not been able to be held at all. 

Braid said ICRs will have to follow the university’s and individual sites’ guidelines for the fall, largely to determine whether or not they can return to their typical format. 

“I hope that we can return to the kind of flourishing ICR experience that we’ve had in past years,” Braid said. “That transformation that typically takes place to a student going, ‘oh my goodness I had no idea what this was, I wish I’d started sooner,’ or ‘this experience changed my life because I understand something about myself — I understand something about the world that I live in,’ that’s very important and is difficult to learn in any other way.”

Braid also said that with ICRs being offered in a primarily virtual format, students lose some of the competencies they would have gained in person. He said this largely has to do with the lack of deep connection and first-hand experience available online. 

“Face-to-face interactions with others are very powerful experiences,” Braid said. “There is a lot lost in terms of the learning gains associated with the ICR.”

This difference in value from the classes is something that many students feel as well. 

Junior psychology major Stephanie Smith is currently taking an ICR called communication and social responsibility, a course in the Organizational Communication department centered around food justice in Indianapolis. This is her second ICR: before the pandemic, Smith took an ICR where she worked with a dementia center. Despite the differences between the classes, Smith believes having consistent meetings with partners over Zoom has been more beneficial than if she had to be in person, socially distanced and wearing masks.

COVID-19 also impacted Smith’s plan to complete her other CORE requirements. She planned to attend the Global Adventures in the Liberal Arts program, commonly known as GALA, and take her Global and Historical Studies requirement through that program. However, because of its cancellation, she now needs to take a GHS class over the summer.

Other students have also faced changes with their graduation plans due to the changes in CORE requirements offered during the previous two semesters. It has left some students waiting to take courses when they are offered in person once again, which could lead to a large number of students attempting to take CORE classes like ICRs and PWBs in the fall. 

Braid said if this is the case, the University may consider making more ICR classes available.

“There could potentially be a bubble of students where they had planned on taking a course that is not available or has not been available and so that there are more students who need that in the fall,” Braid said. “There may be a bit of tension… that needs to be understood in the scheduling process. Ideally the university schedules those CORE classes and makes that happen.”

Junior biology major Madeline Coffey said she waited to take her ICR because there were few options that would fit her schedule in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021. Now, she has found that many ICRs currently being offered for fall 2021 do not work with her schedule and interests, so she plans to take her ICR requirement in the spring of 2022.

Coffey said she believes that this particular biology-centric ICR class will be very popular among biology majors and may be difficult to get into. 

“While I might be fortunate enough to get into it, I don’t know that all my friends who need it [will get in],” Coffey said. “It is a bummer to anyone who is a sophomore biology major who wants to get into that class because they probably also will have to wait until their senior year so they can actually get into it.”

The effects of the pandemic on CORE requirements are likely to be felt by students after Butler has returned to normal in terms of scheduling. However, Smith said she believes there will also be lasting benefits caused by the pandemic. She said the pandemic has provided the university an opportunity to rethink how CORE classes are taught.

“It has allowed professors to kind of take that step back and rework their curriculum,” Smith said. “So I think COVID does have a good impact on how Butler is viewing this CORE curriculum, and definitely giving students a chance to be exposed to having tougher conversations, being willing to kind of put themselves out there and hear both sides of every story. I think that’ll have a great cultural impact on the student body as a whole, and being able to learn and grow from our past and present, in order to change the way we want to talk about the future.”

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