The COVID-19 pandemic greatly altered the traditional instructional model in higher education, but University of Georgia students from a variety of disciplines have adapted to and even embraced the strengths and challenges of in-person and hybrid classes this semester.
For example, when Rayvon Love takes the stage, it’s just him, a piano and a vocal coach well more than 6 feet away. For now, Love, a third-year music performance major with a concentration in voice, can’t sing in person with classmates or his fellow Hodgson Singers. But despite the changes the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the beginning of the academic year, he is finding the good in the situation.
“I started to look for ‘what can I grab from this,’” he said. “I began to look for the positives—what can I change? What benefits can I take from this instruction? I feel like we’ve done the best we can.”
Love, who also is earning a certificate in musical theatre, has one in-person class this semester and three that adopted a hybrid format. When he is on campus, the changes are noticeable. Ensembles aren’t meeting in person. The orchestra room is spread out to allow for proper social distancing. Practice rooms have air purifiers to completely exchange the air between sessions.
With most of the world slowing down, it’s allowed me to think and sit and be with myself.” — Rayvon Love
The changes to the way his classes are structured provide some advantages, such as a more flexible schedule. He’s taken up songwriting and learned more about creating audio and video production through class projects. He’s able to have more one-on-one time with his professors to get help in specific areas, and they’ve been able to bring in even more professionals to speak with students virtually.
Perhaps most important, Love also took time to take a longer look at the big picture.
“With most of the world slowing down, it’s allowed me to think and sit and be with myself,” he said. “It’s given me time to really explore me and my purpose and how I can help others.”
For Ashleigh Rasheed-Britt, a second-year law student, the pandemic presented a different kind of mental challenge from her first year.
“It forces you to buckle down and be disciplined,” she said.
Specifically, she’s finding new ways to stay engaged. That could mean working out to help her focus, or it might mean putting in extra effort to stay in contact with family, friends and classmates working on group assignments.
Rasheed-Britt is on campus Thursdays and Fridays and notes that law school faculty, staff and students are wearing masks and being respectful of social distance. Her favorite class adopted a mix of video lectures, small group sessions and virtual meetings to go over practice problems that seems to be working. She’s hopeful for even more in-person classes in the spring—discussions are an important part of the classes she’d like to take next semester.
It’s about being intentional,” she said. “This is a different type of mental challenge to stay engaged.” — Ashleigh Rasheed-Britt
“The professors have done a really good job of creating an environment that is nurturing and inviting and understanding of what we’re dealing with. That allows us to take it one step at a time,” she said.
The pandemic honed people’s ability to adapt, and Rasheed-Britt said that will come in handy when looking for jobs as she finishes her education. In fact, she adapted to changes in her summer internship a few months ago. Her husband, Jarvis, is in the military and stationed in New York. She planned to intern nearby. The internship went virtual, and the quarantine allowed her to spend extra time with him before safely coming back to Athens.
“It’s about being intentional,” she said. “This is a different type of mental challenge to stay engaged.”
Julia Lance, a third-year dietetics student, found that she’s getting more out of her day now. With a hybrid format, she’s able to take some classes at a time convenient for her. That means she has can volunteer safely at the UGArden—something she wasn’t able to do before because it fell during class time. Small things like these opportunities provide a refreshing break that can help keep spirits up during the stresses of the pandemic, she said.
“One of cool things about this is being able to responsibly put time toward activities you’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I’ve come to realize that it’s not so much about the amount of time I put into things as it is the effort.”
Although she’s not on campus every day, she’s adapting to a new way of doing things. For example, some of her labs are conducted via video, and then she and her classmates calculate the equations on their own.
All of the precautions with seating and other things make me feel safe as a student being on campus when I need to be.” — Julia Lance
When she is on campus, Lance feels more comfortable knowing all of the protocols that are in place.
“I came to campus on the second day of the semester, and I was blown away,” she said. “I thought for sure that when I went back in person I would be scared and feel unsafe. But all of the precautions with seating and other things make me feel safe as a student being on campus when I need to be.”
Nishant Sripathi, a fifth-year finance and MIS major, echoed similar sentiments about the flexibility of hybrid classes.
“It’s become easier to multitask between classes and other things going on in your life,” he said. “You’re able to get a lot done in one day.”
Sripathi is wrapping up his final semester and getting ready to graduate in December. That adds an extra element of uncertainty to his future, but he still thinks that future will be bright.
“I’m looking at it as an opportunity,” he said.