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Penn State students adapt to in-person class transitions after year of virtual learning

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Students, walking

Students make their way to and from class on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 in University Park, Pa. 

After a year and a half of learning online amid the coronavirus pandemic, most Penn State students are now transitioning back to in person. Some students said despite the shift in instruction mode, they believe learning environments have not gone back to “normal.”

Thomas Yonke said the workloads between the two modes of learning are similar.

He said online learning was not much more difficult than in person, but there are other components of his daily routine he previously did not have to factor in — such as getting ready and walking to class.

“I would say, if anything, not the workload but the logistics of being in person are more difficult than being online,” Yonke (junior-finance) said. “There’s a lot more time I have to factor in.”

Marissa Campasano said she has had to confront the obstacle of changing study habits this fall.

Campasano (junior-kinesiology) said she has noticed changes since the switch from online back to in person — such as less class resources available to students.

“The transition from online to in person has been hard, especially with study habits,” Campasano said. “I feel like there were a lot more options for review sessions when we were online because the professors were so accommodating to us, but now, they’re throwing us back into it.”

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University spokesperson Rachel Pell said Penn State communicated resources to students during and throughout their transition to remote learning. Now that classes are mostly in person, “some online resources have continued, [and] others have transitioned back to support in-residence students.”

“We encourage students to reach out to their local campus student affairs office, learning center or academic advising office if they need to be connected to specific services on their campus,” Pell said via email.

Adrianna Kapust said she saw the opposite in effort from professors. Since learning has returned to in person, her professors are more flexible and understanding, she said.

“I think that teachers are way more flexible in person,” Kapust (sophomore-human development and family studies) said. “They seem more approachable and seem like they’re more willing to help students now than they did during online work.”

Alexandra Santarsiero said most of her challenges have stemmed from the change in study habits.

“There’s no more online tests,” Santarsiero (freshman-communication sciences and disorders) said. “You have to study and get used to it all over again, so it’s like restarting all over again from your freshman year of high school.”

Selena Liu agreed and said she has run into issues with her study habits because she struggled mentally from the social isolation of online learning. Despite this, she said she is again having trouble transitioning back to normal.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and we can all agree that after so long of doing remote learning, we aren’t really meant for in-person stuff anymore,” Liu (junior-computer science) said. “A lot of us have lost study skills over COVID because we were doing things differently.”

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Diego Romero, who transferred to Penn State’s University Park campus from the Scranton commonwealth campus, said he had to handle the switch back to in-person learning along with adapting to a new environment.

Romero (junior-physics) said he believes there should have been more transitional opportunities for students, instead of trying to shift entirely back to the past educational environment.

“Now [Penn State is] trying to go back to before, so I think it is a bit challenging for students,” Romero said. “[The university] should make a bit more of a transition for students.”

The Office of Student Orientation and Transitions Programs coordinates welcome events for change-of-campus students, as do many of the colleges at University Park, according to Pell.

The university hosted two virtual “Link UP Programs,” one in March and the other in August, Pell said, with the goal to “help students prepare for the academic, social and financial differences between their admit campus and University Park.”

Ashley Miller said there has been an increase in work along with the move to in-person learning.

She also said she feels sophomores, who have only experienced college from their dorm rooms, were not given a proper introduction to the real college experience.

“In class now, we have more in-class assignments, projects and presentations that we’re working on,” Miller (sophomore-nutrition) said. “I was hoping there would be more of a transition for second-year students.”

According to Pell, Penn State developed the Second-Year Students — Penn State Keep Teaching, “designed specifically to not only to identify the impact that the pandemic had on students who entered Penn State between summer 2020 and spring 2021 but to also fund programs and develop connections for students in need of a full, on-campus experience.”

Molly Gill said there was an increase in workload when classes moved online, and it has not shifted back since returning to campus.

“I noticed an increase [when online] because there was stuff we had to teach ourselves,” Gill (freshman-computer science) said. “ I think [the workload] has stayed about the same since going online because the teachers have the resources now — like the recorded lectures.”

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