Has virtual learning affected college students at NMSU?

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Writer Xavier Dominguez

Las Cruces, NM — In late March of 2020, the novel coronavirus made its way throughout the United States affecting millions of people, especially the education system. From March 16th to the 25th all school districts from every level closed their doors and told students for their safety to stay-at-home, in a report from edweek.org. In less than a month after closing schools, students were forced to continue their education through virtual learning on many various online platforms. However, here in Las Cruces, New Mexico State University home of currently, 14,227 students from the Office of Institutional Analysis has continued with virtual learning in the Fall 2020 semester, with some courses offering hybrid or in-person options.

From educationdata.org, 4-Year institutions are seeing an average of 6–8% decline in the Fall 2020 enrollment as of June 15, 2020.

As well from a June 2020 report, 97% of college students have switched to online instruction according to educationdata.org.

Mike Nevarez, a freshman at NMSU feels his education has even been significantly affected by the switch to virtual learning.

“I have learned a little this semester, but I feel like my education would expand in-person because I am more of a visual and hands on learner,” Nevarez said.

With college courses moving to online video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom. Some students have noticed a disconnection with their professors and a difficulty to learn course material, due to in-person classes being restricted because of COVID-19.

“On zoom, students can choose whether to turn their cameras on or not and when the whole class has their cameras off I feel bad for the professors cause they’re trying their hardest to make the changes easy as possible and when they can’t see their students faces they don’t know how they’re doing unless they ask for feedback,” Michaela Cadena-Chavira said, an NMSU freshman.

Currently, NMSU has been using three instruction methods for students for the Fall 2020 semester. Asynchronous delivery where students work independently in the course and on their schedule, Synchronous delivery is where students will meet with instructors via zoom at its given time, and lastly hybrid courses, allowing a portion of the class to meet in-person while the other students meet via zoom to maintain social-distancing guidelines.

However, with these new instruction methods put in place, since COVID-19 Nevarez and Chavira both share the feeling of being overwhelmed with school and managing life during these unprecedented times.

“I wish professors understood that we still have to work and do other things besides sitting at a laptop the whole time. I’ve had one professor extend class by ten minutes just because they feel like they can which is really unfair,” Nevarez said.

“The most challenging thing I’ve faced so far is having to balance my classes and their workload with my daily life. I have 2 jobs and a very family-oriented person, so when 5 classes are all giving me a lot of homework it’s tough finding time to really understand the material,” Chavira said.

Adding in a student survey by educationdata.org, 37% felt distance learning was better than face-to-face instruction.

With NMSU adapting to these new changes in virtual learning, students have seen some positives come out from not being required to attend in-person classes.

“There are some positives such as not having to get up early and make the drive daily and being able to communicate with the professor then and there,” Nevarez said.

As well prior to the pandemic, students would have to move around their schedule to submit last-minute assignments, but Chavira explains she is able to keep a routine now throughout the week.

“I can see on canvas everything that I have to do and upcoming things we will be working on. It makes things more organized which for me releases a huge weight off my shoulders,” Chavira said.

On September 30th, 2020, President John Flores of NMSU sent out a letter to the NMSU Community stating, “Beginning Nov. 30, following the Thanksgiving holiday, and running through the duration of the fall 2020 semester, all courses at NMSU’s main campus, including those which had previously been delivered face-to-face or through a hybrid model, will be delivered 100 percent online,” Flores said.

Now with classes being moved to 100% online, Chavira hopes to see more of a connection with her professors in her zoom lectures as the school year continues.

“I hope to see in the future more students engaging with their professors and professors really trying to make sure the material they are teaching are reaching all of their students for online classes or hopefully in person classes,” Chavira said.

However, as scientists and researchers from all over rush to get a vaccine to transition life back to “normal” some are eager to get back to the classroom.

“I am definitely trying to get back to in-person classes. I hate the online learning it’s just really out of my zone,” Nevarez said.