COVID-19 Fading but Some Changes Will Remain

The development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has allowed the public to breathe a sigh of relief. With the optimistic outlook that the pandemic is  slowly drawing to a close, many people are asking what permanent marks on the work force and schools will be left in the aftermath of a global pandemic. 

Teachers and administration staff in education systems across Tennessee and the United States are facing a new reality that some of the changes made during the unprecedented times are here to stay. 

Many professors and students on campus have adapted to virtual options in the classroom. However, there have been some negative and positive aspects as a result. 

Across campus, professors like Dr. Colleen Mestayer in the Communication department have expressed their thoughts on virtual learning.

“It is great for a student to be able to attend virtually if they absolutely cannot attend in person, but I do find that students are not nearly as engaged or thinking critically when they attend online,” Dr. Mestayer said. 

A common consensus among students on campus are two levels of extreme. Some students hate online classes whereas the other half of students love having their courses in a virtual format. 

As everyone has learned to slowly adjust to these changes the question still remains of how the next fall semester will look on campus.

Socially distanced students wait for class to begin on April 21. Some COVID-19 regulations will stay through next semester. Photo by Laura Navaro

“I think every professor will need to make the necessary adjustments based on course content and overall objectives of the course. My courses are about communicating in person, so I will make every attempt to continue teaching that way,” Mestayer said.

An innovative way to view your time in virtual class is to use it as experience.  Scott Christen has been encouraging students to use their adaptation to online learning as an asset for the future. 

“The use of video conferencing and remote work was already on the rise before the pandemic. Higher education needs to incorporate what we have learned over the past year to make our students ready for whatever will come after graduation,”  Christen said. 

Applying a prior knowledge of how to use video conferencing programs such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have potential to help students obtain jobs in the future. 

“The use of video conferencing, learning management systems, and other technology over the past year has increased exponentially. Students and faculty have adapted to this and will expect it. I hear students and faculty talk about “getting back to normal,” but I do not think we will go back to the way things were. I know that industry will not,” Christen said. 

As we see the pandemic slowly fading into the rearview we can be optimistic with the skills we learned, the adaptations we have made and that the education system will be changed for the future and for the better.