It might seem logical that the best suited to conduct most aspects of their life online would be the young adult or teen segment of the population.
Howver, with many colleges reduced to strictly online learning for the foreseeable future, some are struggling.
Of course some of the struggle is due not to their own technological savviness, but limitations by some of those and or the technology delivering the material to be learned, Tara Espinoza says.
Espinoza, a 2019 Booneville High School graduate who is attending Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, is one of those who is trying to continue her studies via the internet.
“It’s been a real inconvenience,” Espinoza said last Wednesday. “We just started today. The labs are already taking kids three hours to complete, it usually takes only one.”
The web-based learning began after two days of dismissed classes. Other colleges and universities shut down the entire week.
Espinoza isn’t necessarily jealous, but curious as to the difference and wonders if the extra preparation time leading into this week’s spring break would not have been beneficial to the faculty.
“Teachers don’t really know what we’re doing. We’re getting emails and they’re asking if we have questions to wait because they’re getting so many emails,” she said. “So if you do you homework and you have a question about it you just have to wait until they can reply, which could take days, or hours.”
Espinoza, who is a double major in print journalism and English, is working on her requirements from her home in Booneville.
“If you didn’t register that you were staying on campus you are not allowed in the dorms,” she said.
While those who simply cannot leave were not required to do so, it was recommended that anyone who could, like Espinoza, do so.
“They have now sent everybody home except the cafeteria and the janitors. (Other) employees are doing their work at home,” said Espinoza. “Janitors and cafeteria workers and students are the only people allowed on campus.
There are, of course, some instructors who were more than ready for the shift addressing things like labs that formerly required a student to physically be in the lab as part of a grade.
“My environmental science teacher is now making us go through virtual labs he has set up,” said Espinoza. “You have to go through videos and play the games and do a paper on it.”
Although the college is communicating through email and social media, there is no uniform strategy on course work.
Espinoza’s environmental teacher is also communicating through video in addition to simple email.
“He’s one of the younger ones. The older (instructors) are like we’re going to do emails. We sent packets home with you guys. Take a picture. Send it in, we’ll grade it that way,” said Espinoza.
Espinoza does have a built in advantage of knowledge on how online classes worked because she is enrolled in one already, introduction to multimedia.
“I was kind of ok with the system we use online but other kids have never had an online class before,” she said.
Espinoza also has a composition class that’s moved online but two other classes — her journalism class for her role on Tech’s student newspaper and a print practicum — have been cancelled with final grades computed from to-date work or simply a A.
“We’re not doing any more (editions) papers. We’re going to post the rest of the stuff that we’ve done online and then we’re done,” she said.
How finals will be handled is still up in the air, she said.
“For one of my classes there’s a regular test coming up and it’s timed and basically it’s like ‘I can’t tell if you’re going to cheat or not, you’re going to have you’re book there, but it’s timed so maybe that will slow you down,’” said Espinoza.
Espinoza says she is concerned about grades.
“When you do online classes you have to be self-disciplined. You have to go in there, you have to do your assignments, you have to keep up with the dates, you don’t have anyone reminding you,” she said. “Other kids are going to say ‘we couldn’t get it to work, blah blah blah and if they can’t prove they couldn’t get it to work, do they get an easy A for not doing it.
“The cheating is going to be ridiculous. You have other kids that actually need a teacher to ask questions to understand it, and they don’t have that right now. I feel like grades are going to go down.”
Prior to the announcement of closing the campus, Espinoza said, life was going on as normal as any college campus day.
“Everyone was doing everything they usually do,” she said, before going from college life to “nothing, in like the space of an hour. Kids moving out, parents coming up and getting their kids.”
She’s been told there are about 600 students left, when there were more that 2,000 last week. She’s heard of nobody being forced to leave, and with social media being what it is, she figures she would hear about it.
“We have a lot of foreign exchange students who can’t leave,” said Espinoza. “Some are only staying on campus because the library is open a certain amount of hours and they’re only staying on campus to get their homework done because they don’t have a laptop, or their laptop is an older model and they don’t have the programs we need, or it’s really slow and it crashes a lot.
“That was a concern for one of my friends, his wi-fi at home. He lives in the middle of nowhere.”
While there are plenty of stories about those snubbing their noses at recommendations of staying home, Espinoza said she has come across none from her circle of Tech friends.
“I had a friend going to New Orleans and her family has canceled the trip. I was actually going to go to Arizona and I’ve canceled my trip,” she said.