- In light of the coronavirus pandemic, college students are returning to class in a variety of ways this fall, including in-person, online, and hybrid coursework.
- Business Insider caught up with a junior at Cornell University who is trying out all three class types.
- Here’s how Montse Longoria juggles two courses in person, two courses online, and one course with both in-person and online elements.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Montse Longoria spent the first two weeks of the fall semester in her bedroom.
The junior flew back to Cornell University in New York from Texas, so she was required to self-quarantine for two weeks before attending some of her classes in person.
But for the last two weeks, Longoria has been confused. She said finds the material more difficult to follow on Zoom than she does in person.
“I wish I was a perfect student who paid attention 24-7, but even in the classroom, it’s difficult for me to pay attention for an entire hour and 15 minutes,” she told Business Insider. “So on Zoom, without having teachers in front of you, it’s difficult to sit there and be as if you were in a traditional classroom.”
Now that her quarantine period is up, Longoria can attend some of her classes in person.
A hotel administration major, Longoria takes two courses in person â€” Business and Hospitality Law, and Managerial Accounting â€” and a culinary class in a hybrid format. On top of that, she takes a human resources course and a hospitality development course fully online.
Longoria had the option to attend her in-person and hybrid courses fully over Zoom, but she didn’t want to because she feels like she didn’t learn much last semester once she switched to online courses. Longoria added that part of the issue is just having trouble staying motivated.
“Last semester I would either be in bed or working out while I have a class in the background,” she said. “But now, I told myself that I cannot do that again. I should be learning and I should be getting something out of what I tried so hard to get.”
In a statement emailed to Business Insider,Lisa Nishii, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, acknowledged that audio has been a challenge in some classrooms.
“We know that faculty are trying different strategies, and we encourage students to be part of the solution by speaking up, offering ideas, etc,” Nishii wrote. “This is new for everyone, and we have to continue to improve as we go. Close collaboration between IT experts and teaching/pedagogy experts has been necessary to get to this point, and to continuously improve.”
Here’s how the Cornell student is managing her time this semester.
Montse Longoria is a junior at Cornell studying hotel administration. She is taking two classes fully in person, two fully online, and one in a hybrid format.
Longoria attends her business law and accounting classes in person. She is taking courses in hospitality development and human resources fully online. Longoria also has a hybrid culinary course that includes two online lectures and one in-person lab each week.
Longoria lives in a house with six other students. It’s walking distance from campus.
Longoria is one of seven girls living in a house with three floors, two kitchens, and two restrooms. She lives on the bottom floor with one other student, and they share a bathroom and kitchen.
For her remote coursework, Longoria prefers to study at home.
This is the library for Longoria’s major, but she isn’t using it this year because she finds it difficult to focus and stay motivated with all the coronavirus rules in place.
In the library, students have to wear masks and abide by social distancing guidelines. Signage across the building reminds them of this, and Longoria finds it distracting.
“I went to my major library because I was so excited it was open, but it feels really strange to be in a building where everyone is so separated,” Longoria told Business Insider. “It’s just kind of depressing to be in a place where you see all these ‘do not sit here’ signs. It’s not the ideal study environment.”
Longoria takes a coronavirus surveillance test on campus twice a week.
Longoria gets tested every Tuesday and Saturday.
“It’s not your standard test where the little Q-tip goes all the way inside your nose,” she said. “It’s a self-administered test. You go to a test centre, they give you a little swab, and you have to just swab it around your nostril for ten seconds on each side.”
Longoria gets up at different times depending on when she has class. On Mondays, she gets up at 10 a.m.
Longoria has an in-person class at 11:30 a.m. on Mondays. Before she leaves for class, she eats a light breakfast like oatmeal, brushes her teeth, and does her make-up.
“Then I take a final look in the mirror and I walk out,” she added.
She heads to her in-person class, which is walking distance from her house.
Longoria prefers to attend class in person because she said professors give more attention to the people that are actually in the room. After two weeks of quarantine and learning over Zoom, going to the classroom gave her a sense of relief.
“When I was finally able to go to the class, I understood the material way more,” she told Business Insider. “I had been confused for the past two weeks because I didn’t understand what was going on.”
She says her confusion came from a disconnect in communication.
“The professor has a teacher’s assistant who is managing the Zoom chat and virtual hand raises,” she added. “Even though it is accessible, it feels very awkward for me personally, to come from a computer and interrupt an in-person class.”
In the classroom, Longoria estimates that students are about 10 feet apart.
“Everybody has a row for themselves, and everybody’s in a different area in the row,” she said.
Longoria said the difference in the classroom experience during the pandemic is more noticeable at the beginning and end of each lecture.
“The beginning of class used to be full of everybody discussing what we’re going to go over,” she told Business Insider. “Now it’s more of everybody just in their seat on their phone. And then when class ends, everybody bursts outside.”
When she’s not attending class in person, Longoria is either studying or attending classes online from her bedroom. On Monday afternoons, that means watching cooking videos.
On a Monday, Longoria heads home after class to prepare for her next one, which is a culinary class. This is Longoria’s hybrid course. She has to watch videos before class about what foods they are going to make. On Tuesdays, she goes into the lab to make the meal.
When she attends culinary class in person, Longoria has an hour and a half to make the meal she has been studying.
Before the pandemic, Longoria said that culinary labs were twice as long and the professor would teach the students how to cook during the class.
“And then everybody would bring the food together and congregate at the end of class,” she added.
But now there is no sharing food, and students must learn to make the food prior to lab, hence the videos.
“At first I thought that culinary would be very boring as the chefs are not able to taste the food we make due to safety,” Longoria told Business Insider. “However, I ended up loving going to class as it is hands-on and you get to make your own food.”
Around 6 p.m., Longoria’s friend picks her up and takes her to a local gym in Ithaca, since Cornell hasn’t reopened its fitness centres.
Cornell gyms are closed, so Longoria goes to a local gym in Ithaca, New York.
“Going to the gym with a mask feels very strange, but not as bad as people make it seem,” she told Business Insider. “Now that it is obligatory to wipe down the equipment before and after each use and you see how dirty it is, it makes you think why this was not enforced before.”
After going to the gym, Longoria heads home to cook dinner, shower, and do her homework.
Longoria ends her weekdays with development discussions, extra credit responses, and video lectures.
“Then I’ll probably go over my day tomorrow as well,” she added.
More than anything else, Longoria said she longs for the sense of community she used to feel in Cornell’s hotel administration program.
“Our classes are so small and they’re all in the same building, so whenever class ends, you just see everybody in the hallway or library or wherever,” she said of campus life before the pandemic. “I love going to school and being able to just say hi to everyone. That’s what I miss most.”
This semester, Longoria sees her friends, but not as often.
“We either have study nights or we get together on Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays to chill and lay back outside of school,” she told Business Insider. “It’s not going to be the same. We’re never going to go to a party because that’s obviously not responsible. So it’s more like we’re trying to do what we can with what we have, which is each other.”