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Students adjust to the new reality of online-only courses


A man sits on a park bench along an empty section of sidewalk March 26 on Broadway Street in downtown Mount Pleasant.

For India Ambrose, Central Michigan University's switch to online-only classes last month meant balancing her own coursework while also homeschooling her 8-year-old brother.

"I have tried to adjust my brother's schedule because I worry the effects of this pandemic will cause more stress on him and his learning," the Grand Rapids senior said. "His usual classroom of friendly faces is now his sister who he often finds annoying." 

All public universities in Michigan have made a switch to online classes for the second half of the spring 2020 semester due to worldwide coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, April 6, CMU President Bob Davies announced all Summer I courses (May 18 through June 25) will be online-only as well.

Ambrose isn't the only student who is facing challenges in the switch to online-only classes.

For senior Jamie Covelli, online classes mean constantly remembering the hour time difference in order to make it to her courses on time. 

 “I have class that starts at 6:30. Well, it may start at 6:30 Michigan time, but I have to somehow keep reminding myself it starts at 5:30 my time now,” said Covelli, of Monee, Illinois. 

Gladwin junior Elza Hays said taking online-only courses means having to find quiet time for class with his kids at home all day.

"Trying to learn with children in the household is very difficult," Hays said. "They don't understand that they are home without homework, so they are playing and having a good time while I am trying to study and listen to lectures."

Since the start of online-only classes on March 16, Central Michigan University students have been working to adjust to the concept of learning from home, the challenges that it brings and what it means to them.

With professors providing their course materials and lectures in many different formats – including Zoom, WebEx, Facebook Live, Blackboard and email – students have to keep track of many more websites.

"Every teacher does it differently. They all are structured significantly different than when we were in school," Clarkston freshman Lauren Dombrowski said.

In addition to balancing multiple different platforms for classes, students have different access to the internet and other necessary materials.

Although, due to the unusual circumstances brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, students have been learning strategies and completing assignments that they wouldn't normally be able to.

Wayland junior Shelby Henshaw is in the course "Recreation Planning Events," which is based around planning and producing an event.

"Instead of producing the event, now we have to come up with cancellation strategies, which I feel is something that probably wouldn't be touched if the coronavirus had not happened," Henshaw said. "They talk about stuff going bad all the time, but now stuff is going bad. We get to work through that before we get on the job."

The students all mentioned having an appreciation for their professors who had to work to quickly learn online formats and adjust lesson plans.

"It has just been really cool to see how everyone has come together," Dombrowski said. "Professors are there for their students for anything, whether it’s an extra day for an assignment or a shoulder to, virtually, cry on. 

"It was eye-opening to truly see how supportive my school is."