NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

College in the era of COVID: Students navigate remote learning

Since March 2020, NECC students have found themselves enrolled in a crash course in remote learning.  For many students this would be their first experience taking classes exclusively online.  Erika Rivera, 19, a journalism and communications major from Lawrence, had never taken an online class before the coronavirus outbreak as she prefers to learn in person.

Mirrorajah Metcalf does schoolwork on her laptop in her bedroom.Photo by Mirrorajah Metcalfe

Mirrorajah Metcalf does schoolwork on her laptop in her bedroom.

Being at home makes it harder to concentrate.” she said via FaceTime.
Rivera is also an elementary extracurricular teacher and says it is difficult for young children to sit still in front of a screen for hours at a time. She tries to keep her classes lighthearted and fun by “joking” and “not being too serious” with her students.  
Remote learning has certainly put students’ organizational skills to the test. 
Freshman Mirrorajah Metcalfe, 19, of Haverhill says that planning her own schedule and staying organized has been the most difficult part of online learning. 
Metcalfe, who has had previous experience with online learning in the 8th grade, took a year off school and was “hoping to have a real college experience” this year.
She has been working hard at owning her autonomy and is taking the whole process much more seriously now that she is in college. She is making a habit of writing out her schedule every week and has found it helpful to do so even when she isn’t able to follow it exactly as written. She appreciates the weekly reminders sent by some of her professors and wishes all her professors would send reminders as well. 
For Andrew Venditti, 21, a journalism and communications major from Haverhill, having a tangible tool that is not on his phone has helped him stay organized, “It’s made me a better student,” he said via Zoom.
For those who might be struggling with staying organized he recommends using a table calendar, planner, or agenda where you can write down important information about your schedule and keep it in sight, “Staple it to your forehead if you have to.” he joked. 
Communication has been another area where remote learning has caused students and teachers to adjust from what was previously normal. Students long for the days when they could have face to face discussions with their peers or wait until the end of the class period to ask their professor a more personal question.  
“In person conversations, it’s not the same,” says Venditti.  
Metcalfe also feels communication is hindered with remote learning. “Hate to email to communicate,” she says.  
Rivera says that methods of communicating is her least favorite part of remote learning because “it takes longer to communicate.”   
Students also find it difficult to separate school from other parts of their daily lives.  
"Online classes require a surplus of coffee" says Andrew Venditti.Photo by Andrew Venditti

“Online classes require a surplus of coffee” says Andrew Venditti.

“I do all of my homework on my computer that’s in my bedroom. I’m finding myself feeling fatigued by spending so much time at home because of COVID most of the summer, and now because my classes have me confined to my workspace,” says Vendetti in a text message, and added, “…COVID, current affairs, and the election are taking up a significant amount of headspace. That combination can be stressful.” 

Rivera is still trying to figure out a designated spot for her schoolwork. “Whether it’s my kitchen table or my basement, I just need to find a place that works because my room is a no go…I feel super tempted to sleep; my productivity is super low there.” she says via text message. 
Remote learning isn’t all bad. Vendetti appreciates the freedom of having more control over his own schedule and has noticed that teachers are more organized, “they’ve had time to prepare,” in comparison to last spring when schools initially went online full time.  
As far as the spring 2020 semester, NECC has decided to continue with remote learning.
Students understand that NECC is making decisions with everyone’s best interest at heart. 
“They are seeing the forest through the trees,” says Vendetti. 
 However, students are still disappointed about not being able to return to in person classes any time soon. So bummed.” says Metcalfe. “I was nervous but it’s working out.”  
“It’s got to be weird doing performing arts online.” says Rivera who will be graduating in the spring, “I just want to be done.” 

Throughout the pandemic NECC has maintained lines of communications open to students, faculty and staff with weekly updates via email every Tuesday. NECC encourages everyone to sign up for the school’s Emergency Notification System and follow @NorthernEssex on Twitter and Facebook for the most updated information.