BY ERIN SILVER
Many students look forward to going away to university. It’s a chance to meet new people, socialise and for the first time, attend classes they choose themselves.
But when Covid-19 hit university life changed; in many cases students were forced to learn online.
Kaitlyn Jeffrey, 21, is one of them. She had been excited at the thought of heading to Temple University in Philadelphia for her freshman year and the new adventures that would bring. But then plans changed.
“I went to Temple for the fall semester but they sent everyone home,” said Ms Jeffrey, who is interested in photography. “I went to one in-person class. Then Covid cases rose and they switched to online. They told students they could go home so I chose to fly home because it was more economical for me.”
She enrolled at Temple with help from the John D. Campbell Arts Scholarship (Centennial Bermuda) and a bursary provided by Chubb Bermuda Insurance. She has a photography business in Bermuda where she offers portrait photography or prints of photos she takes, “but it’s not enough to supplement my expenses”.
“I like online classes because it gives me more work time. Instead of having to travel or commute to classes I can be there for class time, and then have some extra free time to work,” Ms Jeffrey said. “I appreciate that side of it, but I also feel like I’m missing out on the university experience. It’s hard to make friends when you can’t meet anybody.”
Since she’s enrolled in art classes, she has to teach herself and work alone. “It’s definitely challenging.”
Kelly Trott is a recipient of the ABIC Education Award and the BFIS Alan Peacock Colonial Scholarship. Like Ms Jeffrey, she’s currently continuing her education through remote learning. A junior at Framingham State University studying business and information technology, she expects to graduate next autumn and was disappointed when Covid-19 derailed her plans.
“I was looking forward to getting off the island to start a new journey,” she said. “I was really looking forward to new-found independence and new experiences that I wouldn’t be able to get back home. I was also really looking forward to the change of weather, since it snows in Massachusetts. I was also looking forward to making new friends and experiencing a new world on my own.”
When the coronavirus hit, everything about the university experience changed. “For starters, I was not able to travel to live on campus. All classes switched over to an online remote or asynchronous format,” Ms Trott said. “It’s also difficult to meet people from school since students tend to leave their cameras off and there’s no opportunity for small talk such as asking for a pencil or random discussions that would happen during group projects.”
Still, Ms Trott says the transition went smoothly. “Since everyone is participating in remote learning, they’ve made it easier for everyone to transition to this format although I’ve noticed that the way I learn and interact with school has changed.
“I complete almost every assignment from my bed in my pyjamas, while also attending class with my camera and microphone off.”
It’s unlike her experience prior to Covid at Bermuda College, where she would get dressed every day and interact with her classmates and professors.
There are pros and cons to the new format she believes. One of the pros of being online is that there are more open book tests. “There’s less pressure since we don’t have to know and remember everything, which I think mirrors the real world,” Ms Trott said. “Another pro for me would be all my professors are pretty accommodating and easy to get in contact with.”
The cons to online school include internet issues, being unable to access course work if the internet goes down. Another con would be the social aspect of the university experience.
“I get very little social interaction since beginning online school. I spend most of my time in my room completing my schoolwork. Due to Covid it’s hard to go out and socialise. It’s isolating.”
Ms Trott plans to leave Bermuda for in-person classes in August. Her advice for graduating students who may also face online school next year is to make sure that you stay on top of your course work and e-mails.
“It can be very easy to lose track of what assignments you have due or what reading you have,” she said. “I also recommend that students find something they enjoy so they can still make time for themselves when days start to feel the same. I also recommend that if they can go to campus they should, even if they end up being stuck in a dorm room. At the end of the day they can always continue remote learning from Bermuda if they have to.”