On Monday, students at the University of South Florida began their fall semester, nearly 5 months after all in-person campus activities and classes were halted due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Though classes started, the campus was a ghost town compared to previous semesters, with many students opting out of traditional face-to-face classes and choosing hybrid and online classes. While a little over 50% of classes have some form of online instruction, many students find themselves having only one in-person class, some only have to come to campus every other week.
As a second-year student, I was able to experience college life before the pandemic, though it was cut a few months short. This semester, I will be taking 13 credits (3 lectures and 3 labs) with only 2 of my labs having some form of in-person component. With my classes starting Monday, I decided to document my days as the week progresses:
The first day of classes and they were online. While it was upsetting not to be on campus for the opening day activities and events, being able to sleep in and wake up only a few minutes before class was nice. At 9:30, I logged onto Microsoft Teams for my first class: biology II. The teacher discussed the syllabus and what to expect and informed us that we will need to have our cameras on during the class. Since it was the first day, she talked until the end (10:45). This class has mandatory meetings Mondays and Wednesdays.
After bio, I had a break before my next class online at 12:00. I took this time to eat, get prepared for said class, and relax before joining my bio II lab on Blackboard Collaborate. The TA for the lab talked for a brief amount of time and stated that meetings will not be mandatory. This lab only meets once a week.
After my two classes, I was free for the rest of the day. I took this time to check over the syllabi for two of my classes, physics I and organic chemistry, that do not have set meetings for lectures.
On Tuesday, I did not have any class meetings, instead I worked on campus for our university's ID card office. To make up for not working Monday, I worked two shifts, from 8 am to 5 pm. This was my first day back to campus, and when I tell you no one was there, NO ONE WAS THERE! Usually, hundreds of students are wandering around campus, going from class to class, getting books at the bookstore, getting food, etc. Nevermind the first week is usually the busiest of the semester. Now, with nearly half of the classes being held online, many students are staying home and not returning to campus. While it was sad to see it so empty, it made getting books and food and working so much easier.
My bio II class met again, this time switching between the main group and a smaller group to work on a worksheet and discuss answers. Having to switch between two meetings back and forth was a little frustrating, especially with having to complete quiz questions through a different database during the lecture. My wifi was also acting up, which made it difficult to hear everything that was being said and hear when I am being called on.
After bio II, I had a meeting for my organic chemistry lab, though I kept trying to access a meeting for another class that was on another day instead. This caused me to be late for my class online. With online classes, I have found it difficult to keep track of what classes meet when, and where to go to find it, since not all classes meet on the same platform. Thankfully, the TA was really understanding and the meeting was short.
Because I had a non-mandatory online meeting for physics lab and I did not work on Wednesday, I decided to work double shifts on Thursday on campus. My meeting was held on Microsoft Teams, where the teacher went over upcoming assignments very briefly. While Tuesday was dead on campus, we had even LESS people on campus Thursday. I took this day to catch up on notes for asynchronous classes I signed up for and to complete assignments I had coming up.
My only class meeting was at 3:30 for organic chemistry peer leading. For this class, all we had to do was log onto a Microsoft Teams meeting with a TA and go through practice problems, asking questions when we have them. We also had our first quiz, and my first proctored quiz for the week, at 5:15 online. We were to download a program on our computer that watches our movements and listens through our microphone while we complete the quiz. It was 10 questions in 45 minutes, but we could not go back once we answered a question.
The first week was a little stressful, I'm not going to lie. Maybe it was just because we haven't had a full semester in a few months, or maybe it's the fact that it was all online, but it was a lot. While I understand teachers aren't acquainted with the online databases, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of assignments and where everything is online when teachers are not putting them in the right spots in Canvas. Next week I have my first lab on campus, so we will see how that goes. Until then, the rest of my classes are online and the only time I will be on campus is for work.
I give it a month before classes get moved fully online. While the colleges cannot afford to not have the income they usually do during a normal semester, with the number of people on campus, people are bound to get sick, especially with the random testing the university is conducting. Nevermind the partying that I have seen going on. It is only a matter of time before the university decides to close the campus.