Sequestered in his room all day, Grant Kassan sits at his laptop for hours at a time attending online classes. He can’t help but feel disappointed.
“I didn’t enroll in an online university, that’s sort of how I feel about it, and that’s not what I sort of came here in the understanding of,” said Kassan, a senior health professions major.
Temple University is delaying the start of in-person classes for the first two weeks of the Spring 2022 semester as COVID-19 cases nationwide surge due to the Omicron variant.
Although the return to virtual learning is temporary, many students are struggling with Temple’s decision because they miss in-person activities or learn better by taking classes on campus rather than on Zoom.
Caroline Nava, a senior public health major, feels that, while online learning can be more convenient, it is harder for Nava to pay attention during her classes, and she feels virtual learning is taking away her college experience, she said.
“I like the convenience of online learning, but at the same time, the experience for in person is a lot more in depth, and you can interact with a lot more of your peers than you would online,” she added.
Nava attends her virtual classes in Zoom Zones at Charles Library. When Zoom Zones are unavailable, she also likes working in her off-campus apartment or at the Saxbys, located on Liacouras Walk near Polett, she said.
Temple created Zoom Zones in the Fall 2020 semester as designated areas where students can safely attend virtual classes or study.
Although most students in university housing must wait until Jan. 22 to return, Nate Weinberg, a freshman undeclared major, received approval from the university to return to his dorm in 1940 Residence Hall on Jan. 12 because of issues connecting to the internet at home.
Weinberg prefers taking online classes from his dorm, rather than at his home in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, because he is used to studying and learning on campus, he said.
“There’s less distractions, less things going on, and I can focus since none of my roommates are back in the dorm — there’s less going on,” Weinberg said.
He wishes classes were in person but feels the university’s decision was best to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, he said.
As of Jan. 16, there are 488 active COVID cases among Temple students and employees. More than 95 percent of students, faculty and staff are fully vaccinated, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard.
It’s been difficult for Kassan to concentrate while learning virtually because he can easily stay in bed or use Twitter during class. He doesn’t feel the same urgency to take notes, he said.
“Given that most of my classes are in the morning, I haven’t really woken up,” he added. “When it’s online it’s sort of hard to get out of bed and motivate yourself because you can just pull up your laptop and half be awake, half be asleep.”
Alyssa Pellegrino doesn’t participate as much in online classes because it is easier for her to use her phone instead of paying attention, she said. She misses grabbing a coffee at Richie’s and seeing other people on campus.
In Fall 2020, Temple operated with a mix of in-person and online learning for the first week of the semester before a spike in COVID-19 cases among students led the university to switch to primarily virtual instruction.
The university delayed the Spring 2021 semester’s start date by eight days, held hybrid courses throughout the semester and canceled spring break to prevent a potential increase in COVID-19 cases.
Kassan is a member of the Temple Undergraduate Philosophy Society and misses the social aspect of being in person. He is concerned with how online meetings will operate because it is difficult to facilitate natural conversation due to people not knowing when they might interrupt others, he said.
Although the university will remain virtual for another week, Weinberg is optimistic for a safe return to in-person classes and activities.
“I just hope that everybody can come back, and for a safe return, and the university can take the steps to mitigate the spread of COVID in the future for the rest of the semester,” Weinberg said.