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Kent State Students Offer Perspective on Return to Campus Amid Pandemic

a photo of a KSU classroom
Kent State has modified how classrooms are set up to accommodate the need for physical distancing that can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Editor's Note: Kent State University re-opened its metaphorical doors on Thursday, August 27 as classes resumed in-person and online. Two WKSU Fall 2020 news interns, Kelsey Paulus and Jay Shah offered us their insight into their first day of class and being back on campus.

Kelsey Paulus
After the first day, I knew this semester was going to come with a learning curve for both students and staff. Students are learning how to navigate around campus and their classes, whether that be online or in person. Kent State staff are learning how to accommodate students to the new norm of education due to coronavirus. To say that this semester will be filled with surprises and flexibility is an understatement, but I am excited nonetheless for what is to come. 

Kent State classroom seating with sticker markers
A lecture hall at Kent State now has markings on seats to indicate where students should sit and where they should not to practice safe distancing that can prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

All of my classes are taught remotely through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, except for one. For my Interdisciplinary Projects class, we are required to attend in person taught by two professors and also attend a Zoom call to communicate with the third professor and to other students who are not in the lecture hall. This is an interesting approach to teaching a class; however, the first day was filled with technical difficulties such as muting/unmuting the class microphone to avoid feedback and how to talk to other students using personal microphones when in breakout rooms. 

As far as online classes are concerned, they are essentially the same to me as last semester. When campus shut down in March, everyone was going into remote instruction blindly. 

While the changes on campus are definitely something none of us have seen before, it almost seems normal now. I am used to wearing a mask in public and keeping my distance with the help of signs and floor stickers, so this did not change when I came to campus. It is definitely something Kent State students and staff will have to get used to for the time being. 

a photo of safe distancing signage
Flyers have been printed and posted in every stairwell, hallway and bulletin board showcasing the newly implemented Flashes Safe Seven guidelines. These are seven steps everyone on campus is encouraged to take in helping reduce the spread of the coronavirus on campus.

Jay Shah
My first week being back on the Kent State campus was interesting, to say the least. I was on campus two days prior to the first day of classes and everything looked the same on the outside but it didn’t feel the same. There were the occasional hordes of new students walking to downtown Kent and across campus but everyone had masks on.  Inside the building, all offices were closed and there were signs everywhere. For the first time as a college student, I actually paid attention to signage posted by a university and diligently ensured that I would abide by those signs. 

The reason I was on campus was to clean out the college radio station space since I am the new general manager there and all buildings were to be open to the public beginning August 25th. I was nervous about touching door handles, using the restroom and also being in the proximity of other human-beings outside of my household. It was also weird being inside a public place that wasn’t a grocery store or my house. I wore my mask the entire time I was there, however, after everyone had left and the space had been completely emptied, I did take a break from the mask for brief periods of time. 

a photo of the Black Squirrel Radio studio
Stickers indicate where to sit in the studio of Black Squirrel Radio at Kent State University.

There were a few other people in the building on different floors that I passed by while entering and exiting. One of them had no mask on; the other one wore their mask with their nose uncovered. That was a little nerve-wracking but I was also slightly relieved that it was around the time I was leaving the building for the day. While leaving, I also drove by a group of students, seemingly freshmen, who were sitting together at one of the outdoor benches without masks or physical distance. 

I have not been physically present on campus since then and I’m not complaining. My first class was conducted virtually via Zoom. Somehow, this seemed closer to normal and well within my comfort zone which is a first for my camera-shy self. Since I am the type of person who learns best in a traditional classroom, I was slightly disheartened to learn that all of my classes would be taught remotely. 

Although, this first session was a bit reassuring because our professor was interactive and the students were equally engaging. He was informal in his explanations of assignments but provided us with his cell-phone number and email address to increase accessibility. The best part about this professor was that he was welcoming of questions.

Considering that I have experienced remote learning in the past and as it becomes the new convention, Kent State University will not be so different an experience than my undergraduate days, however, it will definitely become more challenging with extracurricular participation.

Overall, I'm glad Kent State University is sensible enough to care about its students, staff, and community by implementing these guidelines and restrictions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. I just hope its students, staff, and community will do the same by avoiding congregating in masses and being intuitive of the current situation.