Schedule changes

The week of canceled classes due to the winter weather forced professors to update syllabi and make changes to their courses. 

In light of the winter storm resulting in the cancellation of classes from Monday, Feb. 15 to Friday, Feb. 19, professors were forced to reschedule their lesson plans, evoking mixed reactions.

In a decision made by the Office of the Provost, Texas A&M’s professors were instructed to revise their syllabi and not have graded assignments due until Thursday, Feb. 25 and it seems everyone handled the unforeseen changes to class schedules differently. Professors exhibited confidence both in their students and in their own ability to handle the situation. Students, however, differed in their responses.

Conservation biology junior Sarah Nippert said she appreciated the sentiment in the decision to move exams and other assignments to later dates because it gave students a chance to study after power outages hindered their ability to do so. However, she said this also led to a pileup of academic responsibilities.

“All of my professors have been very kind and understanding,” Nippert said. “But when they restructured things, it caused many assignments to be due at the exact same time.”

As a student with a full-time job, Nippert said she has to make plans in advance to make sure work and school don’t conflict.

“When all of the exams were moved, I really struggled with having to email professors and coordinating with my job to get them done,” Nippert said. “At the time of the storm, the restructuring really helped me stay calm about the entire situation, but now that it has passed, my stress has increased due to the large amount of assignments all due at once.”

Wildlife and fisheries sciences junior Erin Kavanagh said the restructuring of the last two weeks helped her because she wasn’t able to do schoolwork during the week classes were canceled.

“I had to get moved out of my unit due to water damage in my bedroom and bathroom,” Kavanagh said. “Plus, the power outages made it impossible for me to do my work.”

Without due dates being pushed back, Kavanagh said her performance in classes would have greatly suffered.

“It definitely helped ease my stress because it gave me time to recover and get my stuff done,” Kavanagh said.

Though chemistry professor Daniel Collins, Ph.D., had to remove a chapter of material from his lessons due to the lost academic days, he said the situation did not increase his stress.

“With the ever-changing environment with COVID-19 and the events of last spring's online transition, this wasn't that much of a difference or change from our past year,” Collins said. “Truthfully, I felt more prepared and flexible for this change than last year's online transition and was able to quickly adapt to the new schedule.”

Although students may have been originally anxious about the changes, Collins said his students have been understanding and flexible.

“I think the anxiety really came from them not knowing how long the closure would be, how quickly we would get back and how it would affect living arrangements,” Collins said. “But now that the schedule has been solidified, the apprehension and angst has decreased a lot with the students I have talked to via email and office hours.”

Government and public service professor Leonard Bright Jr., Ph.D., said the situation moderately affected him, as he had to make a few changes to his expectations and course design.

“I moved back a couple paper assignments by one to two weeks, but the changes were not incredibly significant,” Bright said.

After 16 years of teaching, Bright said he has learned to be prepared for the unexpected.

“This involves shifting and canceling the assignments and lecture topics that are the least important to the overall goals of the course,” Bright said. “These strategies certainly helped to reduce the stress that I experienced this week.”

In general, Bright said his students seemed to handle the situation well.

“I tried to be as lenient and understanding as possible,” Bright said. “I believe the university and professors’ efforts to be flexible and accommodating helped a lot.”

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