Reflections on academics this semester

Patrick Corso and Victoria McGinty

Now that midterms have passed, Mercyhurst University will be facing the same academic format for next semester. To help curb the spread of COVID-19, students are split into A/B groups for classes where in-person learning alternates for each instruction day. For example, for a course that meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, students may be in the classroom once or twice a week, while classes that meet on Tuesday and Thursdays, students always attend in-person once a week.

Some classes have been able to be held entirely in person because the class size is small enough, or the classroom is large enough that all students can attend at once and still observe social distancing. Others are entirely online due to the nature of the class or limitations set by professors’ health.

Since Mercyhurst has very few cases among students and employees and has far lower numbers of cases than other universities in the Erie area, they managed things well in ways that other universities have not. It also makes sense to point out that Mercyhurst occupies a smaller number of square feet than other universities, meaning the carrying capacity is also lower.

Unlike an urban university, our campus is somewhat of a bubble.

As we pass the midway point of this unique semester and start to prepare for finals and winter break, how are students feeling about these past few months of school?

The Mercyhurst Institutional Effectiveness team sent a survey to all students last week to try to gauge the answer to this question. The survey asked students to share their academic experiences so far, noting that the administration was looking for “ways we can get a better sense of how you’re doing and ways that we can help.”

One notable factor of the survey was the space for students to leave comments. Here they could talk about how learning during COVID-19 may have affected their time management, stress levels, grades, or motivation, or leave positive feedback about what has gone well in terms of classes.

Bella Fragnoli, senior Intelligence Studies major shared her thoughts on academics this year. “COVID has definitely changed up how the year looks and I find myself checking Blackboard more than ever to make sure I am not missing due dates for anything. I really appreciate how flexible and supportive professors have been in regard to our learning experience. In general, I think that this fall has been tough but everyone is working together to get through it.”

Many other students said they had found the semester tough so far and noted that is difficult to study for 14 weeks without a break.

A few days after the survey was sent out the 2021 calendar was released which indicates “break days” for students. These days will be class free for students to hopefully take a brief academic rest.

While next semester will follow the same format as the previous one, the pandemic is far from over even if a vaccine is in place.