Last spring, Stockton students and faculty found themselves in a whirlpool of stress and anxiety as the state went into lock down. Professors, some of whom never taught online before, were forced to continue their curriculum online. Students were forced to get their education through Zoom and Blackboard.
Stockton reopened its doors in the fall of 2020, but many classes were still restricted to computer screens. Tuition rates remained the same, campus menus were cut, hand-out areas were diminished, in-person events and meetings were few to none, and many students still found their anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues skyrocketing as they attempted to work through the semester.
Despite all of this, Stockton and its staff have done their best to help, protect, and maintain students’ education, school involvement, and mental health.
Now at the start of the Spring 2021 semester, classes are back in session after a long winter break. The university is reaching its one year mark since the pandemic forced normal school life (and the entire country) to a screeching halt. It leaves many wondering: how have students adjusted?
“I think the university, faculty, and staff had a hard time adjusting to online,” said Kay Adams, a senior liberal arts major who left housing at the Atlantic City campus last spring. “Especially faculty who had never done online work. They were taken aback because it took them a while to get themselves together. Teachers have been trying to adjust to the way things are now so lesson plans are being altered, which is better than last year.”
Due to Adams’ move back home, which is out of state, Kay lost her job and had to scramble for the search process while trying to maintain a focus on school. While accustomed to online learning, she has faced struggles with her mental health due to the pandemic.
“Socializing took a heavy toll on my mental state for a while, and led to me disappearing from my school work for several weeks in a depressive state,” she added. “I had to push back my graduation deadline, and change the course of action that I was taking.”
However, Adams has seen some good outcomes with the faculty and staff. It was with the help of those in the counseling centers and her professors that Kay was able to continue. She’s now chosen to go fully online with her education to finish her degree.
“Stockton has helped me by having a great faculty and staff at my disposal,” she said, “and I thank everyone for their help.”
Gabriella Fiorcia, a literature major, has had a different experience with Stockton’s online learning. She’s adjusted well to the switch, but still misses many things about campus.
“Obviously this pandemic is unlike anything we’ve ever done before, and although no one prefers online learning, it is the smartest avenue of learning for the time being,” she said. “My ability to learn has improved, but I think more so because I’ve gotten a little used to classes being conducted online. Also, many professors have learned to videotape classes which could be very helpful in the learning process since we can go back and watch.”
Fiorica was one of Professor Tom Kinsella’s interns for the Stockton 50th Anniversary project. She worked as a freelance writer where she conducted research, editing, and interviews. “I did not find it difficult to participate in my internship,” she added. “Most of what I did was researching the online archives anyway. Interviews had to be conducted online. However, that also gave us the opportunity to easily record them, and make them more professional.”
When it comes to attending Zoom calls for clubs and events, Fiorica said she has not participated in any. However, she said that she has taken part in some seminars and that they were a good experience.
While she’s adjusted easily, Fiorica still faced some difficulties when it came to remote learning. “You don’t easily have access to the face-to-face tools such as the library, and the tables and books that accompany it,” she said. “It’s harder to make friends, or even study companions in class when no one can really team up or talk to one another through Zoom. It’s made it difficult to meet someone to share notes, and study with.”
“It’s been harder to get to know the teacher too, and establish a personal connection,” Fiorica continued. “It’s taken some of the fun out of attending school. It seems less like an experience of learning and enhancement, and more like mundane online courses someone purchased off the internet. This last year of online school has really made me cherish my face-to-face education.”
When asked about her plans for the semester, Fiorica said she plans to complete her online course while also maintaining a steady work schedule. “I hope that, with classes being online, it will make it easier to balance the two, and leave time for both.”
Both students were asked what their advice for incoming students would be. For those who have not decided, or are on the cusp, Adams advises to start with a community college: “This is one of those times that saving money at a community college is the smarter option,” she said. “Welcome events will be here when you finish with an Associates.”
For students already committed to Stockton, Fiorica suggests studying hard and minimizing the slacking while online: “Take notes, also. When classes are online, it may feel like everything must happen virtually but hand written notes can help keep you focused, ensure you’re paying attention, and help you retain information.”