After reflecting on a fall semester of online learning, football and a presidential election, students are looking to spring 2021 for a more conventional college experience.
Next March will mark one year since Texas A&M canceled in-person classes to institute safety and social distancing protocols due to concerns over the growing coronavirus pandemic. After two semesters of adapted online learning methods and campus distancing regulations, students hope for familiarity in the new semester.
In a campus update sent to students, Provost Carol Fierke said accommodations are being made for next spring. Though aspects of the semester remain ambiguous, some changes were announced, including the incorporation of some exclusively face-to-face courses without remote options.
“Planning is underway for spring,” Fierke said. “Course instruction will be similar, although we are adding a handful of face-to-face courses without remote delivery for classes that are electives or also offered remotely in a separate course section. The spring calendar is likely to change and include a shortened spring break.”
With accumulated skills and experience from the last year online, students are looking to have a less stressful spring semester. Psychology senior Sheridan Steen said though it is bittersweet, she hopes to experience as much as possible during her last semester in college.
“I graduate in May, so I am hoping to make the most out of the next couple of months and to spend as much time with my friends as possible,” Steen said. “I am also excited for Elephant Walk, Ring Dance and some of the traditions that I’ll get to experience the last time as a student.”
Steen said she is looking forward to online learning again due to the freedom it gives, and said it encourages her to balance her life and classes.
“I am also kind of excited to be partially online again because it’s giving me a lot more free time to study [and] do homework, as well as to spend time with my roommates and other friends,” Steen said. “I also definitely learned how to work on my time management skills and organizational skills this semester with everything online, because my classes didn’t have mandatory attendance. I learned how to stay on top of watching my lectures and ensuring that all my assignments got [turned] in.”
Engineering freshman Renee Oswalt said though online learning reduces social interaction with other students, having another semester of remote classes will feel routine in a time of perpetual ambiguity.
“I am excited that the second semester is taking a similar structure to the first, just because it gives us a sense of normalcy, because now we know how to do online learning since we’ve done it once before,” Oswalt said. “Of course I’d want to have classes in person, if it was safe. I want to build relationships with other students and teachers and TAs. But, we do have to stay safe and keep our at-risk population safe.”
Many are looking toward the developing vaccine to help people feel safer in day-to-day life, allowing for a slow return to normalcy.
“We’re not immune to the virus as young people and we’re definitely not immune to its effects. Taking precautions for us is important because we’re vulnerable portions of the population, so I get that we’re still online,” Oswalt said. “Second semester, as the vaccine rolls out and CDC, governmental and local guidance shifts a bit I think we’ll feel more comfortable going out and being around people and friends and hopefully in-person class.”
Despite COVID-19, Oswalt said freshmen like herself are looking to become accustomed to college life during their second semester at A&M.
“I am excited for the vaccine. I am excited for a sense of normalcy. And I am excited to have finally found my stride at A&M,” Oswalt said. “I think second semester as a freshman is always a bit easier because you’ve figured out how to live life in college. With COVID-19 I think it’s definitely hard but at least there will be some normalcy.”