By Jac St. Jean
This fall marks the first full semester of in-person classes since the fall semester of 2019. After roughly 10 grueling months of attempting to learn remotely and virtually, Springfield College students are now back in the classrooms and learning in a physical space with others and their teachers right in front of them.
One can only wonder how almost a year of learning online has affected the minds of college students, and how they are dealing with being back in an in-person setting. Senior and sports management major Chris Mills had a lot to say about his experience in the previous academic year.
“Being in the classroom to me is really important,” Mills stressed. “When I’m on Zoom, especially when you have the camera turned off, I can just be zoned out entirely the whole time. I feel like I wasn’t learning anything at all, almost like paying money to sit around.”
Mills believes his retention of information took a bit of a dip in the 2020-2021 school year. Although online learning did not affect his grades, it did impact his focus in the “classroom” when he would have to log onto Zoom to learn. Now, having a fully in-person class schedule, Mills has readjusted quickly to the physical classroom setting.
“I don’t know if it really affected me much,” Mills explained. “I can catch up pretty quickly. At the beginning maybe I was a little bit slower because I hadn’t been in a classroom setting in a while… but being back in a classroom setting you kind of had to catch up.”
In March of 2020, right before students left for spring break, President Cooper announced that all classes would be conducted virtually for the remainder of the school year. Mills returned to his hometown of Hamden, CT, and had to finish up his sophomore year at home.
“It was like the semester basically ended when we got sent home,” Mills expressed. “I remember in a couple of my classes I felt weeks behind on assignments. From March to April I was checked out, and I lost all focus on work. I was at home and doing nothing. I would say it had a really big impact on my ability to do work and focus.”
Starting his senior year back at Alden Street, Mills is relieved and happy to be in a physical classroom with his friends in his major.
“It’s nice to actually be back and be somewhat normal,” Mills said. “I told my roommate one day when we were in line at Dunkin that it’s actually nice to be in a line that goes out the door for once, because we didn’t have that last year. To actually see places filling up again, it’s nice to have that experience and be around people.”
As a senior, Mills’ first two years at Springfield were ones of a normal college experience. But for students in the Class of 2024, they are just now experiencing the typical college academic year that they did not get the chance to experience when they first arrived as first-year students.
Sophomore and English/Secondary Education major Hailley Boutin is currently feeling the effects of her previous academic year that was spent online. As a member of the high school senior Class of 2020 at Belchertown High School, Boutin’s final year in high school finished in a virtual setting.
“I had always been one of those students where doing school work was what I did,” Boutin stated. “I was an honors student and an AP student, so I was always doing work. It was so weird to not be given that expectation anymore.”
Boutin’s final months at Belchertown High School were very relaxed. Seniors were not given any real work leading up to graduation, according to Boutin, and she believes that this combined with her first-year experience at Springfield has affected her and the rest of her graduating class.
“It’s definitely weird,” Boutin stated. “One thing that I know a lot of kids in my grade have talked about is that we feel like we don’t know who is in our class, because we were all either online with our cameras off, or we were doing NSO with just the people on our floors… socially it’s very weird.”
Now back to being in-person, Boutin is experiencing a normal college year later than normal. Not only has this been a detriment to social life within her class, but it also has caused many of her former classmates from high school to transfer schools or leave college entirely.
“When we got cut off it was [around the time] we were all getting our acceptances,” Boutin explained. “We just picked [our colleges] without talking to teachers or guidance counselors.”
Boutin and many other students in the Class of 2024 are struggling to adjust to a college setting. Their preparation in high school that was cut short and lost, along with their initial college year being conducted online, has severely impacted their ability to focus and work in the rigorous curriculum.
“I haven’t had a single class on Zoom this semester.” Boutin continued, “so it meant actually getting up and going to class. Being on zoom, you can sit there and pay attention in class and also be doing other stuff, whereas now it’s like ‘I’m in class’. I’ve always loved school and learning, but it was really hard to fall back into sitting and focusing because my attention span had just been lost from doing Zoom for an entire year.”
Boutin, along with the rest of her graduating class, is currently preparing to register for her spring semester classes and signing up for MTELs. Her experience of online learning at Springfield College, along with that of Mills, has shown the heavy effects of the 2020-2021 academic year.
Despite this, both students are still powering through their classes, and are prime examples of how students at Springfield have adapted and overcome the troubling year of learning via zoom. If you or other students are struggling academically, contact the Academic Success Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics