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Students and Professors Adjust to Flex@Pitt

by Nicole Cortino

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Day by day, Pitt-Greensburg is adjusting to the new COVID-19 life. The Insider talked with several students and faculty about their experience as they work virtually.

Deva Nyer is a freshman majoring in political science as she takes her first semester online. She explained how her high school’s transition earlier in the year affected her education.

“I feel more productive now. It’s interesting not doing consistent school work for all these months and then going straight into college work,” she said. “I definitely have to keep up with the fast pace. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing sleep every once in a while but that’s normal stuff.”

Experiencing college online is very different from her expectations.

“I thought classes and teachers would be a bit more rigid, versus my reality, where they are more flexible as long as you do your work on time,” she said. “I was scared I was going to get classes where my professors would say it’s only ‘this’ way or no way. It’s cool that our professors put you on that same level.”

Nyer was surprised to see how adaptive and accommodating her professors have been.

“They are always saying they have hours open if you want to talk about anything, especially with everyone online; I think they are adapting to it well. With everything being online I was surprised with how well I am able to connect and communicate with different departments,” Nyer said.

Nyer is not the only one who feels this way. Dr. Deborah Mucha, Doctor of Psychology and professor at Pitt-Greensburg also transitioned well into online learning.

Dr. Mucha did training before classes began, which she feels helped her understand her students better.

“I love Pitt. They’re really concerned about the student’s educational aspect and making it everything it can be,” she said. “Even prior to classes starting, they did all the training and made sure we felt comfortable being in classrooms so we can help the students as much as we can.”

She describes her experience being on campus and how that has been beneficial for her.

“I don’t have to worry about my dog barking, or my parrot interfering or my husband coming home from work. Going into class is quiet,” she said. “I’m glad we’re online and I’m capable of being on campus. I think it adds more to a classroom type of experience. For the students who do come to class it’s nice they still get to have that interaction.”

Jennifer Suppo, Doctor of Education and associate professor of Education, is a Pitt-Greensburg professor as well, but teaches completely virtually.

She said she took her time setting up her classes properly, so she feels she is adjusting well. However, she has the additional challenge of taking care of her daughter with disabilities and significant health issues.

“I have to be very careful not to bring any extra germs into our home,” she said, “so online education has helped me tend to my daughter’s needs efficiently.”

Additionally, Dr. Suppo has taught online classes for many years, using Canvas and incorporating asynchronous videos on her class website.

“I do feel as though Zoom has brought me closer to my students. I see them in their homes now and sometimes family members pass by,” Dr. Suppo said. “It almost feels like I’m on campus with all the meetings and video classes, seeing everyone’s face.”

While Nyer and Dr. Suppo are going virtual this semester, Taran Wagner, a senior in six classes (one as a teaching assistant), has chosen to stay on campus and take classes in-person when he can.

“The first day I was going to go to class I was walking across campus and I saw no one. That freaked me out enough where I said, ‘I’m going to go back to my laptop.’ No one was there and I’m so used to waking up and seeing hundreds of people passing every morning,” Wagner said. “I was wondering, ‘do we even have classes in person?’ so I panicked and went straight back to my room.”

Even though he is on campus, he stays in his room most of the time.

“It’s kind of weird and strange in a way, because we even got emails saying when we’re outside we have to wear our masks,” Wagner said. “Which is totally fine and understandable, but when I’m outside and you tell me I have to wear a mask, well, it just kind of sucks.”

Wagner is concerned about how this may affect underclassmen’s experiences as well.

“I feel bad for the incoming freshman and anyone in lower years because they’re not really getting a good college experience,” he said. “I got the full experience. Going to class, hating class, loving class – but now, I sit in front of my laptop staring at a screen for hours every day. I’m not a huge fan of it. I’m not a technology type of person.”

Despite the difficulties it can pose, Dr. Mucha thinks online learning has increased productivity.

“I think having the recording of classes, if a student can’t attend a class, maybe because they have work, for example, there’s no reason for them to miss anything. They don’t have to rely on someone else for notes,” Dr. Mucha said.

However, she can still tell the difference between now and previous years.

“The one class I teach there’s only two kids in the classroom, which is odd. I’ve talked to both of them and they both like participating and being on campus,” she said. “The smaller the classes the more intimate it is, the more the students feel comfortable to put themselves out there.”

Wagner says although there are less people and more online meetings, it’s worth living at Pitt-Greensburg.

“Even if it were worse and they told me I couldn’t leave this room at all, I still would be on campus,” he said.

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