Online learning cuts students off from valuable campus resources that boost their academics

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illustration by Gabrielle Rodriguez

One of the selling points of Trinity is that class sizes are small, allowing for more involved and personal learning with the low professor-student ratio. However, talking to peers, it is apparent that the small cap sizes prohibit many people from taking necessary classes to graduate on time. Although I don’t exactly know for what reason students need to take extra semesters to graduate, the number of peers that are worried about being fifth-years or having to take summer classes seems like a lot. The intensity of your degree path depends on major/minor requirements, ability to pass classes and credit hours, but also your ability to plan out or strategize your class schedule for the next few years. Although registration week is always stressful, planning out classes during COVID is especially hard because of uncertainties about living situations and how long we will continue remote learning. Like Dana Nichols said in her piece last week, we are all struggling academically and mentally and shouldn’t be expected to function at pre-pandemic levels. By we, that includes teachers and administration, who are undoubtedly as overwhelmed as we are with the uncertainties surrounding COVID. However, there is a common conversation among students over the stress of registration and the feeling that we are left alone to figure out our class schedules and simply hope for the best.

I hear increasingly from peers that they “just want to graduate fast,” as the pandemic has stolen much from the college experience of learning in-person and living with other students safely. Because Trinity is a small school, the pressure for students to perform well academically and navigate the registration process without mishap is a lot greater than other schools. Even as a junior with good credit hour standing, all upper-division classes in my major that I needed were closed on day two of registration. The same went for last semester, where everyone scrambled to get into their required classes, being promised by professors that their chances will be better the next semester. While knowing that professors are having to rapidly adjust their teaching styles and facing over-enrollment, from the student perspective, the inability to get into classes is truly stressful, especially as communication with professors is more difficult online. Because of COVID, the much-needed interaction and building of student-professor relationships is creating a new set of challenges. Having access to and fully utilizing the school’s resources — including staff and administrative help — is more distant during the pandemic.

Often times it is on the individual student to take full advantage of the school’s resources. While on campus, I had daily access to study spaces, the gym and Dicke Smith art studios, all of which I miss visiting. It was also quite easy to talk to and seek guidance from administration by visiting their physical offices. Being able to drop into offices and having on-campus interactions is something I took for granted, but it is part of what Trinity students are paying for. The pandemic is teaching many of us the importance of in-person interaction and the need to support our peers while we collectively experience difficult and uncertain times.