In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, students and faculty alike are charting new territory by working remotely. Many students are moving away from campus and have to find new ways to keep up with their schoolwork, learning by alternative delivery methods.
Cam Swantek, a sophomore education major, said he prefers learning in an interactive group setting.
“I personally work a lot better with face to face, hands on, and engaging classes, so to not have that ability to simply ask questions in the spot or do activities alongside my peers will be something I have to get used to,” Swantek said.
Other students are experiencing concerns with being able to focus and stay on-task during this time.
Ellen Madden, a sophomore biology major, said she is nervous that she won’t be able to concentrate, and the courses will be more difficult.
To combat this, students can do a few things.
No matter what, keep a routine. Set aside at least one hour a day for each class and take small breaks. Practice getting up at the same time every day and falling into a schedule much like on campus.
With so many businesses closed, it can be hard to find a place to focus, such as a coffee shop or library, so set aside a space that is for working only. Make it a no-distraction zone — turn off the TV and put your phone on “Do Not Disturb.” Do your best to imagine your professor’s voice and picture their face as if in class.
To avoid procrastination, the Rev. Shawn Clerkin said to “eat your broccoli with your dessert,” meaning to balance classes. Classwork is not the same as a Netflix show — no lecture is ever meant to be binge-watched. Don’t play favorites and put off the work for the classes that are harder or not as fun. Make a calendar with to-do lists and due dates and stick to it.
As expected in a classroom, be sure to practice good learning habits like regularly interacting with classmates and teachers via chatrooms and Blackboard and be sure to use the internet to your advantage if questions arise.
“Chaos is the only constant,” Clerkin said. “We rely on change. How we face adversity shows a lot about who we are.”
In addition to the physical realm, students have raised concerns about the adverse effects this pandemic can have on a person’s mental health.
Alexa Rogers, a senior English major, said, “There’s a lot of unknowns right now and it feels like my entire life has been flipped upside down.”
Rogers has moved back home with her parents, who are both in their mid-60s and almost died from the flu that went septic a couple years ago.
“Reaching any kind of balance is going to be really difficult since I am not great at that,” Rogers said. “I’ll just have to take it one day at a time and hope everything will be OK soon.”
Others are struggling with the fact that their year on campus has come to such an abrupt stop.
“It’s definitely taken quite a toll,” Swantek said. “I was on placement in a kindergarten classroom at Asbury Elementary and when I heard the news that it wouldn’t be continuing, my heart broke a little bit.”
Students aren’t the only ones experiencing this pain, though. Elizabeth Kons, director of Gannon’s Writing and Research Center, said it has been incredibly hard for her to be away from her Gannon family.
Kons has rheumatoid arthritis, preventing her from being present at the Writing Center and saying a proper goodbye to the seniors who are graduating. The virus became very real when Kons’ sister-in-law was hospitalized last week and is now on a ventilator and uses a feeding tube.
The reality of the situation is that students may be going home to a place where they have responsibilities to take care of siblings or the emotional blow that comes with having a sick loved one or ultimate loss.
Clerkin said to get through this time, it is crucial for students “to feel and do and be all the things they have to to deal with the seriousness of the situation.”
Social distancing can be difficult for anyone, and the Counseling Center strongly encourages that students continue to foster their connections with their support systems.
Alyson Eagle, a college counselor at Gannon, said it’s important to continue prioritizing physical health, finding creative ways to exercise your body and mind, such as using yoga and YouTube video workouts. Use this time to revitalize a hobby you hadn’t previously had time for.
“We recognize this may be a high anxiety-provoking time for our students so please remember to prioritize your self-care,” Eagle said. “Your basic needs are extremely important for success with your academics – eating healthy meals, a quality amount of sleep and a safe place to live are vital.”
The Counseling Center will continue to provide assistance via tele-counseling sessions. Any student can initiate counseling by calling the office at 814-871-7622 and leave a message with their name, contact information and availability. Staff from the Counseling Office will contact them for an initial consultation via phone as quickly as possible.
Kons emphasized that it doesn’t feel real, but it is, and people need to take this situation seriously.
“Everyone needs to work together to make the world a safer place,” Kons said. “Face little challenges positively and control what you can.”