Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, education systems across the nation have been transitioning coursework to distance learning to keep students and faculty safe. In particular, SUNY campuses have been working hard to ensure that their students’ education remains a priority during this time of change. SUNY schools throughout New York State are providing students with a number of resources—from laptops to information web pages to counseling services—to help them adapt to a different way of learning and life. Even though this massive transition has brought about challenges, SUNY students are showing their tenacity and dedication to their studies through hard work and perseverance.
For Steven Methe, a senior at the University at Albany, he has found a number of “bright spots” to help him overcome the learning curve of moving to distance learning by way of technology. He shares, “live class sessions on Zoom, Blackboard discussion pages, and video presentations from students, though not the same have become a very similar substitution for being in person.” These elements have aided in carrying out meaningful, reflective discussion between Steven and his classmates. In particular, one of his classes meets every Wednesday with “the goal of discussing the readings for the week, but often expands to exchanging stories about pets, family, the home environment, and general life occurrences.”
Through these interactions, Steven and his classmates are able to foster human interaction that can be lacking during this time of social distancing. In fact, these mediated platforms have fostered a deeper sense of connection between classmates, which is important to cultivate while learning online. “Not only has this created an even closer community than the one we had while in person but has really opened up the class to be an environment for success, creating openness in every opinion and response.”
As a whole, SUNY students are banding together, both through academic pursuits and otherwise, to help each other through this unfamiliar territory. Taryn Rackmyer, a junior also at the University at Albany, shares that this situation “has only shown us all how much we love and miss our campuses—a testament to the kind of educational experience SUNY provides.” Through this sense of community, Taryn feels that “students and faculty have been working together now more than ever to overcome challenges and achieve the same quality of education that we had on campus.” Part of overcoming those challenges has involved sharing resources with peers, offering each other access to their internet and studying materials, and ultimately, just being there for one another.
In addition to connecting more with their peers, SUNY students are finding it easier to meet with their professors. Taryn notes, “I have had a lot more time to meet with my professors now that I am not in class/work, so I have been able to schedule half a dozen video meetings with professors to talk about graduate school,” which is something she didn’t previously have the time to do. She shares that her professors and advisors have been “very accommodating,” and that professors have been utilizing Zoom to hold open office hours. Michele-Lane Detouche, a sophomore at SUNY Schenectady, shares this sentiment, “the several check-in emails from professors [have] made me feel reassured and prepared.” Michele also notes that seeing the efforts professors are putting into making online classes a more seamless experience is fostering a “can-do” spirit among her and her peers.
Although learning during the era of COVID-19 and social distancing presents its challenges, it is heartwarming to see all of the success stories and support coming from our SUNY family throughout the state. It is through the many efforts of our faculty, staff, and students that the high-quality education that SUNY prides itself on continues to be made available to our over 400,000 students. As Chancellor Johnson shared with SUNY students at the beginning of this transition, “Know that we will do whatever it takes to remotely deliver the world-class education you expect,” and this effort will remain true moving forward.
Julie is a Communications Assistant at SUNY System Administration.