JMU students try to adjust and keep anxiety in check amid an ever-changing semester

JMU’s quad is quieter since the university shifted most classes to online starting Sept. 7. Administrators will announce later this month whether in-person classes can resume Oct. 5.

By Sabriya McKoy, contributor

For both new JMU students and returning students who went through the abrupt shift to online classes in the spring, the university’s move this week to online classes amid a spike in COVID-19 cases has stoked anxiety and confusion.  

“I think it’s going to be difficult to do online classes, especially because I was scheduled to attend classes face-to-face and alternate online,” said Chloe Mills, a freshman justice studies major. “It’s hard enough to keep up with hybrid classes.” 

Many so-called hybrid classes split the roster in half so that one group would come to the classroom while the other half joined virtually or watched recorded video lessons so there would be fewer people in the classroom. Now that most classes are fully online, Mills and other students say that it’s like having to adjust to a whole new schedule — at least until Oct. 5 when JMU officials hope to fully re-open. 

“It’s weird because everyone feels so bad for us, but we don’t really know what to think because we’re used to it at this point, and it’s sad,” Mills said.

Friday marks the end of the first week of mostly online courses. Because of a spike in COVID-19 cases and shrinking availability of quarantine beds, administrators announced Sept. 1 that the move to online courses would begin Sept. 7. And JMU sent home many students who live in on-campus residence halls. In all, more than 1,000 students have tested positive for the virus since Aug. 17, according to dashboard kept by The Breeze. University officials said they hoped the move is temporary and will announce later this month whether professors and students can return to physical classrooms Oct. 5. 

Mills was among many students who told The Citizen she is trying to get used to the turmoil the pandemic has brought with it. They said they are trying to become more disciplined and productive in their studies and attending all their classes on various online platforms, such as Zoom and WebEx, while still maintaining communication with their professors and peers.

Quinn Burnett, a sophomore studying psychology, said she worries she’ll have trouble focusing in online classes. 

“I’m taking a statistical analytics class that requires us to use a computer program SPSS, which I’m not totally comfortable with,” Mills said. “It’s going to be a lot harder to get help now.”

The university’s faculty and staff are trying to provide help with that. For instance, JMU’s Science and Math Learning Center conducts synchronous and asynchronous tutoring through its Science and Math Learning Center website. Students also can schedule a time for tutoring services through WebEx. The asynchronous option allows students to submit a Google form with questions for a tutor to answer. Students should expect a response within one or two business days, according to the center’s site. 

The University sends weekly updates to the JMU community. Regarding the virus, students can find academic and counseling resources on the university website. Resources include virtual learning tips, library materials, and tutoring services. 

Julianne Ellington, a sophomore studying elementary education, said she thinks the university should have put out more information than what was given over the summer. 

“It feels like a lot of the emails we received were empty fluff to make us feel better,” Ellington said.

The university has adjusted its timeline to allow students flexibility, including extending the deadline to withdraw from the university to Oct. 10 from Sept. 15, according to a message JMU’s University Communications sent to students

Clare Inlow, a freshman studying special education, said she isn’t the best at doing homework and is anxious about struggling in her classes. Inlow’s sister is two years older than she is, and when she came home in the spring, Inlow said she was very stressed. 

The university offers counseling resources to support students to manage stress or want to practice self-care, including through JMU’s Therapy Assistance Online with virtual tools and connections to counseling to help students through school and everyday challenges.

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