Flattening the Learning Curve: UM students face new challenges while coping with COVID-19 impact


Hayden Wiggs
Oxford Stories

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be felt throughout the University of Mississippi student body, transcending classification and background.

As classes shift to online and students are advised to return to their permanent residences, many feel as if part of their college experience has been taken from them, while others struggle with the burgeoning rent crisis and sudden displacement due to dorm closure.

In a time of fear and uncertainty, stability is key, but for some, its hard to find.

“For me, the biggest hardship that I’m currently dealing with is not knowing what comes next,” said Allie Goodman, a senior elementary education major, “especially how we don’t know how long this is going to last. The virus has really put me out of my comfort zone and has made me have to adapt.”

Allie Goodman
Allie Goodman

For some, the transition to online classes has proven to be a challenge. For Avery Pearson, a sophomore business administration major, the problem is in the platforms, of which Zoom and Blackboard are the most popular.

“The biggest issue is that it’s very new to both me and my professors,” he said. “We’re all learning it together.”

Others, like Blair Madison, a junior English major, find the change easier.

“Sure, it has been a little difficult to adjust to the change, but luckily, I’ve been able to get into contact with all of my instructors and administrators that I need to talk to,” she said. “Everyone has been really on top of the communication.”

Blair Madison
Blair Madison

However, not all majors benefit from the online format. Art and performance majors, in particular, are finding trouble with the transition, as their unique classes do not support an off-site curriculum.

“My musical theatre voice class has had to shift to doing virtual voice lessons, which are a huge struggle due to an unavoidable lag in video that makes it impossible for our voice teacher to play live accompaniment with us,” explained Brandyce Berryman, a senior theatre major. “My movement class, in particular, had to cut a chunk of material from the syllabus, because we would need to do it in a group setting. It’s very frustrating.

“My classmates and I are all having to teach ourselves how to self-tape, which is a valuable skill for future auditioning. However, even with these small benefits, I still feel that I am missing out on an amount of growth that only the full college experience can give me.”

Sophomore vocal performance major Emma Johnson, agreed.

“I am devastated that I am not able to do what I love,” she said. “The entire basis of my degree is performing and, through these changes, that is being stripped from me.”

Johnson described the changes in her piano instruction classes, where students are now asked to “perform” pieces using a paper piano.

“The paper templates were cut out, glued together, and glued onto cardstock,” she said. “It is incredibly frustrating and very hard to learn on. I can’t tell you how hard it is to play a piece of paper, not being able to hear the music. The last video submission took me five hours to complete because I got so frustrated.”

“Art and performance majors are being hit the hardest with this change,” said Johnson. “We can’t perform at all. That’s the biggest thing.”

Emma Johnson
Emma Johnson

The Future?

For many, the frustration extends beyond the classroom. Due to the shutdowns that have occurred as a result of COVID-19, some Oxford residents, particularly those with on-campus jobs, now have no source of income and are, perhaps, no longer able to pay rent.

Upperclassmen even find themselves unable to participate in summer internships that have now been canceled due to the virus.

As a graduating elementary education major, Goodman fears she will not be able to find employment, nor a graduate program.

“Many school districts have halted their hiring process, and some graduate programs have postponed their decision dates, which only adds to my stress. And, depending on how long this quarantine lasts, I may not even have a job this summer.”

Senior Morgan Quinnelly, a server at the new Tango’s on the Square, was devastated by the restaurant’s temporary closing, and she worried about finances. Fortunately, she has support elsewhere.

“I’m lucky that my parents have agreed to help with my bills and groceries while I attend school,” she said.

Unfortunately, due to the rent crisis, as well as the decisions made by the university to close on-campus dorms, some students suddenly found themselves displaced.

Following the university’s announcement on March 19 that detailed the move to online classes, on-campus residents were surprised to find they were being asked to move out.

“It was utterly unexpected,” said Amelia Murphree, a freshman biology major. “At the time, I had hoped it wouldn’t last long, but everything changed, and it became a very anxious situation. It felt as if we were all kicked out.

“Online classes are horrible for me. As an on-campus resident, I relied on the university’s internet, due to the fact that I live in a rural area with a bad connection. I’m beyond frustrated with the decisions made, as it seems they were enacted without thinking of the students.”

The housing crisis brings up numerous questions, as to whether or not landlords should reduce or suspend rent due to the pandemic. Opinions differ among students.

Some, like Avery Pearson, believe “landlords should move to give a month of rent forgiveness, considering [tenants] are in the house for another 30 days.”

Lucy Gebhardt, a junior IMC major and an out-of-state student, shared a similar opinion.

“They should lower rent for students unable to leave their state or school, or not require us to pay for utilities,” she said. “For students that are living in the apartments, rent should also be lowered for them.”

As a senior, Quinnelly said the experience has left her feeling emotional.

“There are a lot of things I was looking forward to doing that I will never get to,” she said.

Goodman, a senior, agreed.

“I am extremely sad to have lost out on some of the best months of college with the people I have grown closest to in these four years,” she said. “This definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to leave. It wasn’t the way I was supposed to leave. I’m not ready to say goodbye.”

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