SNU online: Are virtual classes working?

Miranda Jacobson, Editor

With a pandemic disrupting the spring semester, Sierra Nevada University has made the transition from on-campus teaching to virtual classes.

The options for meeting regularly include Big Blue Button, a videoconferencing technology that integrates with Canvas, the online site used by SNU for class management, turning in assignments and communicating with students. The more popular site, not only for the school but globally, is Zoom. This site offers the option of connecting students with a simple link and ID to log-in.

“I’m glad we have classes, but I really wish I was at school,” junior Samuel Michael said. “It’s hard to be at home and be doing classes. It makes things a whole lot harder.”

And Michael isn’t alone. For some students it’s difficult to work from home, not just because of the change in environments, but because of mental health challenges.

Junior and art major Deja Maestas feels SNU is pushing to help its students, but also feels the shift during the pandemic is weighing on her, as well as others.

“This atmosphere of anxiety, chaos, and pain is in no way, shape, or form healthy for any human being,” she said. “Therefore, I see the online classes as an added stressor for many people, including myself.”

In the chaos of switching to online class, professors are also being forced to change their styles and methods of teaching incredibly fast.

Donna Axton, a professor of both humanities and music at SNU, has found that in the face of these circumstances, there is room to improvise.

“I give daily homework and read and respond to every word of it,” she said. “This has been a learning curve, working out how to accept and comment on all homework papers as I would in a normal classroom.”

And while Axton is figuring out her side of teaching, she is able to see the problems the students are facing as well.

“There are difficulties with students not having a strong enough Wi-Fi connection, or not being able to find their way to the virtual classroom,” she said.

Other problems include students who have to prioritize work over school, which takes away from their overall learning experience.

“This creates distraction,” Axton said. “Their priority during normal school hours may be to bring in some money.”

And money can create some serious stress, with a number of students facing unemployment. This raises the question as to what will happen with the student’s tuition, and if it is worth it to pay for the remaining part of the semester.

Sophomore Andrew Santos, who has moved back to Napa to be with his family, believes paying the full tuition is still fair.

“It is the only real option,” he said. “I think that it is fair as we are still receiving the credits.”

But some students, like Maestas, have been seeing past the money, and are still hoping for a positive outcome.

“I’d love to live in a world where, for once, it wasn’t about the money when we have people dying by the thousands,” she said. And even though Maestas would be okay with a partial refund, she, as well as many other students, see the effort that the administration and professors are making for the students.

“I’ve noticed my art faculty are making great strides to help their students, like changing workloads and constantly keeping positive communication with students,” she said.