Walking to class. Studying for exams together. Group projects. All these and more are part of the college student’s experience, which has been drastically changed since the coronavirus hit the United States in 2020. A large percentage of students were forced to pursue their academic careers entirely online. The treasured college experience of every student was jeopardized, and the road returning students to in-person learning wasn’t easy. Let’s take a look at Corning Community College and how the pandemic has affected the lifestyle of its students.
To begin with, virtual classes became the means of learning for college students when Covid was running rampant. Mishala Wilber, a Corning Community College student for the past three years, experienced this first-hand. She says, “The transition from 2019 to 2020 was like going back to homeschooling. You taught yourself most of the material.” This lack of direct teaching caused difficulties for Mishala, or Misha, as her friends call her, and her peers as they learned to navigate this unexpected change in college life. But that wasn’t the only challenge. Sandra Turner-Vicioso, a Spanish professor at CCC since 2001, reminds us that students absorb content more efficiently when they read from real books and write with their own hands. She further explains students who are in a classroom together realize they all share the same goal, and they can even pick up on each other’s learning methods.
Another problem online learning posed was participation and communication. Misha noticed lessened student involvement online. “I tried my best to participate because I knew I would just start looking at social media platforms instead. Or doodle while half listening. Attention spans dropped to an all time low for many of my classmates,” she says. In addition, while Misha had consistent tutoring for Calculus, it was only because her professor had bad internet connection and wasn’t able to aid his students as much. Misha even had trouble connecting to the online server herself. But Sandra reminds us that CCC “kept people going,” allowing students to keep pursuing their careers.
Sadly, the pre-Covid ease of chatting with peers changed completely. “Making friends was hard,” Misha relates. During 2020, there were no clubs or any other sort of events. None of the students of Corning Community College could even attempt to find their much-needed relationships on campus.
Despite all this, the move to a “virtual campus” did have some encouraging positive sides. Olivia Drake, a Learning Specialist for Reading and Writing who provides tutoring for students of CCC, realized that individuals with children and jobs who weren’t able to get tutoring before could now get it virtually because of the online Learning Commons brought on by Covid. Plus, now “students can access things when they’re off campus”. What’s more, Misha’s usual driving time could now be spent studying and preparing for classes. While Misha was learning online she was also able to “build more of a relationship with [her] professors because they need help navigating the online aspect of it.” Sandra too sees connections between people being made that weren’t prevalent before.
Misha returned to campus in the fall of 2021. She struggled learning to communicate face to face for the first time in over a year, but it didn’t take long to settle back into how things had been before. Similarly, Olivia says “there still might be less engagement” among students after the pandemic. But Misha became “better at asking more direct questions on class materials” because of having been online. As hard as it was to learn during a global pandemic, Misha believes this “curveball” was important for the growth of CCC.
In the end, this season of Covid has not been easy for college students. They have had to navigate online learning, deal with hardships of feeling alone at times in both learning and relationships, and discovering how to relate to others after so long apart. But students have also grown through the experience, and more are getting academic tutoring and building relationships. The heart of Corning Community College may have seemed torn apart for a while, but it is on the road to becoming stronger than before.