As of September, 303 students have enrolled in their classes remotely for the fall 2020 semester, said Westhampton College Dean Mia Reinoso Genoni, which is approximately 9.6% of total undergraduate students.
The University of Richmond made the online learning option available to students on July 14 and gave them until Aug. 5 to fill out a form requesting to take all courses online, according to a July 14 email sent to students from Executive Vice President and Provost Jeffrey Legro and Vice President for Student Development Steve Bisese. But students were able to enroll in remote classes until the end of August in order to accommodate for all students, Richmond College Dean Joe Boehman said.
In an Aug. 6 email sent students who opted for remote study, Boehman and Genoni informed students who had chosen to study remotely for the fall semester of details-- such as spring housing and remote study FAQs-- information and support resources.
“It is important to know that, as a remote student, you may not live on or have access to campus,” Boehman and Genoni wrote. “This requirement is in the interest of the health and safety of the campus community, as you will not be participating in the University’s COVID-19 testing programs or daily health screening requirements."
Aarshia Sethi, a sophomore studying from India, was on the fence about whether to go remote, but said her parents encouraged her to stay home given the uncertainty of the pandemic. Sethi said she had been excited to be a resident assistant this semester but had to resign when she decided to take classes from home.
Sethi said professors were accommodating and were holding online office hours. However, it can be hard to hear and participate on Zoom, or raise her hand and ask a question while the rest of her peers are in the physical classroom, she said.
“It’s definitely hard to stay motivated,” Sethi said. “You know, when you’re on campus, and you see everyone studying, and you have your own routine and schedule. Now, I turn around and see my bed, so staying motivated is harder.”
Juliette Copeland, a sophomore studying from outside Philadelphia, said she had emailed the Westhampton College dean’s office multiple times over the summer asking them to offer a fully remote option for all students.
“I love Richmond academics, but am cautious about COVID-19 and would not have returned to [enroll in classes] if remote classes weren’t offered,” Copeland said.
Copeland said she had been relieved remote classes were offered as an option and could tell professors cared about making the semester work, although there had been technical issues during the first few classes, such as difficulty participating in class.
Genoni emphasized Westhampton and Richmond colleges' dedication to providing support to students who are studying remotely. Genoni and Boehman wrote in the Aug. 6 email that the Richmond and Westhampton college deans were happy to speak with remote students by phone, Zoom or other methods.
Senior Sophia Frazier, who is from California, decided to take remote classes in Copenhagen, Denmark, this semester to keep her Danish- U.S. dual-citizenship, she said. However, she spent the first two weeks of class in California, she said.
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“Waking up for my 7:30 a.m. class is hard since it’s 4:30 a.m. in California,” Frazier said, “The audio is also spotty. For example, the teacher asked a question, and I couldn’t hear another student responding in class, so I responded at the same time."
Despite some audio issues and difficulty to feel heard, Frazier said that teachers have been very supportive, and she is really excited to use the remote learning opportunity to live in Copenhagen with her extended family.
Of the 303 students enrolled in online courses, 61 are first-years, 69 are sophomores, 86 are juniors and 87 are seniors, Genoni said.
First-years were also given the option to only take a remote first-year seminar and no other classes for the fall semester, an option which 23 students chose, Genoni said. Students who opted to solely take a FYS in the fall did not pay tuition for it, Genoni wrote in an email to The Collegian on Sept. 10.
The Westhampton and Richmond college deans reached out to each first-year student who opted to study remotely, including transfer students, to make sure all first-year students were registered for an FYS that worked for them, as well as providing general support and checking in to make sure their technological needs were met, Genoni wrote in the Sept. 10 email.
Boehman said he had not heard complaints from online students, although three had requested to switch from remote to in-person learning. Switching to in-person learning in the fall semester was not possible because of UR’s housing rules and COVID-19 testing procedures, as remote students are not enrolled in UR's COVID-19 testing program nor taking daily health screening requirements.
Contact news writer Heather Neiman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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