Early takeaways: Members of the CWRU community reflect on the first few days of the semester

Students, faculty and staff spent the summer envisioning what fall semester would look like amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This fall, some classes are being offered virtually and others in-person, albeit with added safety precautions—and some are a mix of the two. Now, as the second week of the semester winds down, classes are in full swing.

We spoke with students and a faculty member about their experiences in the early days of the semester. Read their answers to our questions below.

Tanya Desai

Second-year full-time MBA student
Both in-person and remote courses

1. What have been some positive experiences so far?

I love the fact that I am able to get the “back-to-school” feeling, interact with professors in person, and also see some of my classmates again. I’m a lot more focused in the in-person setting and learn a lot better. 

2. What are your expectations for the semester?

I love fall semester because there’s so much happening. Of course, this year that’s not going to [look the same], which is sad, but safety first! My expectations are just to be able to learn the most out of my classes and stay as engaged as possible. I am also a part of the Graduate Business Student Association at [the] Weatherhead [School] and we’re trying our best to make it a welcoming experience for students.

3. What have been some of the challenges you’ve experienced so far in your classes?

I think it’s more difficult for the professors because they have to keep students engaged on both the platforms together, but they’re doing a great job! In one of my hybrid classes, the students on Zoom could not hear what the students in class were saying; it was too echoey for them. That was day one, though; hopefully with experience, these technical challenges will be solved soon.

4. Overall, what would you say your first few days of classes have been like?

It has been very different for sure. I am also trying to juggle my internship with classes, so the first week has been very busy. But I love being in school, so I’m having fun! 

Isaiah Pinckney III

Third-year School of Law student
Taking remote classes

1. What have been some positive experiences so far? 

My professors are more than aware of the challenges that come with remote learning and they try to adjust and make the experience as seamless as possible. 

2. What are your expectations for the semester?

With the pandemic, it’s hard to have expectations.

3. What have been some of the challenges you’ve experienced so far in your classes?

Besides Zoom not working across the country on the first day, I don’t believe there is anything I uniquely experienced—but there are the usual internet issues, Zoom burnout, and, for some, trying to give your attention in class when you do not live alone.

4. Overall, what would you say your first few days of classes have been like?

The first week [in some ways] feels like a continuation of the spring semester, though the courses are tailored more to an online format.

Bidisha Raychaudhuri

Fourth-year biochemistry major
Both in-person and remote classes

1. What have been some positive experiences so far?

I’ve found it a lot easier to manage my time (especially since I don’t need to walk to and from classes as often). My friends and I have also been figuring out different ways to spend time with each other while appropriately social distancing, so it makes the whole situation a lot easier to handle.

2. What are your expectations for the semester? 

Honestly, I’m not sure. I think the one thing that has been consistent throughout the entire pandemic thus far is that nothing really goes as expected.

3. What have been some of the challenges you’ve experienced so far in your classes?

I opted to live off campus this year, so I’m off CaseWireless. My roommate and I have had issues connecting to our Zoom classes that are at the same time because of our WiFi, so I usually try to find on-campus spaces to study and attend classes. The Zoom Rooms are helpful, but I have some discussion-based classes and have had trouble finding areas on campus to “attend” them.

4. Overall, what would you say your first few days of classes have been like? 

My first few days have been pretty good so far! I’m still adjusting to the hybrid format of some of my classes, but all of my professors have been incredibly accommodating for the students. It’s nice to remember that, while this semester is different and poses a whole new set of challenges, we’re all in this together.

Janna D. Kinney

Instructor, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing

1. How did you have to adjust your classes? What was that like?

The course I am teaching has some in-person dates and components as well as remote learning components, so adjusting has been difficult because much of nursing requires hands-on or face-to-face training. However, it has also been interesting to find ways to step outside traditional learning models, elicit feedback from students, and find ways to engage everyone in a physically distanced classroom and on Zoom. 

2. Are all of your classes in person or are some remote?

Nursing classes have a hands-on, face-to-face lab and in-hospital clinical component, so those are all in-person. Much of the lecture content is being delivered remotely. 

3. What has it been like this week to teach under these circumstances?

This first week has been very different in comparison to other first weeks. I was lucky enough to be able to hold the first class in person, but not being able to see everyone’s faces because of masks and trying to remain 6 feet apart has been challenging, especially because I really enjoy meeting students and forming relationships with them. I have also been amazed at the commitment students are showing to keeping themselves and the community safe by following safety protocols.

4. What are your hopes for students this semester?

I really hope students will be able to learn and thrive at CWRU even though they aren’t having a “traditional” fall semester. The COVID pandemic, political unrest, and the outcry for racial equality in our country has shown us all that we all need a sense of community to get through hard times. I hope students can find that even though they may be taking classes online or living in [residence hall] rooms alone.