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NCU’s New Reality: Students’ Perspective

NCU’s New Reality: Students’ Perspective

Photo Credit: Online Source

By: Javanique Darby| Communication Studies Major

At which precise point in time did the term “normal” come to mean not being able to embrace your friends at school, or not being able to see that big smile after telling someone a joke, hearing, instead, a muffled laugh and worse of all, having to stay six feet apart from everyone else?

The wearing of masks, nightly curfews, staying six feet apart, sanitizing one’s hands everywhere one goes, has become the “New Norm” – and our reality – since the emergence of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. This “New Norm” has caused some changes in what we knew as the norm; rushing to get a seat in a class packed with students and limited chairs, knocking on lecturers’ doors to ask for clarification or a grade change, walking with and sitting right beside one’s friends in the cafeteria; these privileges are no longer available.

For the academic year 2020-2021, the global pandemic has forced the government of Jamaica to instruct schools to limit face-to-face interactions, and for the most part, to only conduct classes online until the virus has passed.

The Northern Caribbean University (NCU) is in the forefront of educational institutions which are limiting the spread of the virus, by having mainly online classes, exempting only those students who engage in laboratory work or practicum. This has then allowed teachers who have never used the online forum, “Blackboard Collaborate Ultra,” to adjust their lesson plans to suit online methods. Recent emails have shown where the University has hosted sessions to teach these lecturers how to use this online platform in this academic year.

We have successfully completed the first week of school and it can safely be said that it was indeed a complex week that brought out numerous reactions. Many students have shared both their good and bad experiences on various social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter as well as on their WhatsApp statuses.

Kimberly Smith, a final year Communications Studies student at NCU stated that “these online classes have forced me to be more prepared; Usually, I sit back and allow others to talk as I am a people person, so when I’m around other people, I feed off their energies and give that back to them. With online classes, it’s hard for me to do so as it takes a lot of motivation to do online classes.”

On the other hand, Shawee Blackwood, a Second Year Hospitality and Tourism Management student, shared her mixed experiences with online classes.

“My week has been good as I have faced less internet trouble this time around. Most of the lecturers use PowerPoint presentations to interact with the class, but the interaction level is very poor as students do not want to turn on their mikes and talk and some of the lecturers sound monotonous, like they are talking to themselves, so it’s hard to focus in class, shared Blackwood.

Many students complain that getting registered this time around was very challenging; some gripe about the reluctance of some teachers to use PowerPoint presentations to teach, and who opt instead to use a barely visible whiteboard behind them; still others complain about teachers who fail to utilise the correct online room for classes.

Online classes have now become a standard aspect of NCU curriculum, especially for those classes which are offered in the late afternoons. This online platform is a part of the University’s online system, Aeorion.  Aeorion allows only students registered for a particular class to log on and it offers a range of privileges including but not limited to, screen sharing, video and microphone use and the recording of sessions to be viewed at a later date. Students who attend NCU has experienced an online class at least once or twice for the years they have spent at NCU.

Undoubtedly, the Coronavirus Pandemic has brought sickness, fear and death in its wake, and it has created an upheaval in the normal day to day lives of students everywhere.  Despite this, though, students, for the most part, agree that the pandemic has resulted in some positives, one important one being that when classes are held online, it allows them to participate from the comfort of their own homes, saving travel time and money, and allowing for a more relaxed mode of dress.  There is still good reason to celebrate.

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