I have recently completed teaching a course during the Fall Semester of 2020, the infamous COVID-19 semester.  It was very stressful on all involved, faculty, staff and students.  But now that’s over, I have some advice to share with students.  

It doesn’t matter what subject I taught; this advice would apply to any course.  It does help to know the context.  UMHB taught in a Hyflex model, called CRUflex.  Students were able to take courses face-to-face, by Zoom, or entirely online.  The course I taught was at 8 am, Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

So here are my 5 words of advice to students.

1. Show up.

This may seem trivial, but it applied particularly well during the COVID semester.   Most of my students showed up on the first day.  By the third week, no more than three of the 30 were in the classroom.  Six to eight were on Zoom, but not always there in a meaningful way (see #2 below).  The temptation of not having to go to class was overpowering, and for a significant number, they got further and further behind, until they stopped being a part of the class altogether.  You would be surprised how much you will absorb from a class simply from being there. 

2. If you go to class via Zoom, turn on your camera.

That camera keeps you accountable.  Otherwise, it is too easy to start doing other things while the class is happening.  Ordering food at a drive-through with your camera off but your microphone on will not make a positive impression; I can tell you that from experience.   The camera also keeps you from rolling over and going back to sleep.  I regularly called on my Zoom students during class.  After the first 10 minutes, about a third of them were unresponsive.  They were already back in Snoozeland. 

Female student using laptop while sitting on bed

3. Your professors want to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Your professors are not out to get you, and in COVID times, they want to help you as much as possible.  Don’t be shy about asking for help or clarification or whatever you need to be a successful student.  Also keep in mind that your professors cannot give you the benefit of the doubt on work that you never turned in.   Do yourself a favor and complete all of the assignments. 

4. Make sure your professors know who you are.

Most of you have been wearing masks all semester, and you may have been attending class remotely.  Your professors will have trouble recognizing you, much less getting to know you.  This is an opportunity for you!  Make it a point to talk to your professor.  Say hello if you see your professor outside of class.  A little personal interaction in the COVID era goes a long way.

5. Don’t isolate yourself.

COVID requires that you keep 6 feet of distance, not abject isolation.  You can still hold study groups or exam review sessions, even if they are by Zoom.  If you don’t know anyone in class, don’t settle for that.  Reach out to other students who need a study group.  Your professor can facilitate study groups if you ask.  

Group meeting with masks

I sincerely hope that within six to nine months, this blog entry is completely irrelevant and out-of-date.  I hope that the COVID pandemic is behind us, and my suggestions look like quaint reminders from the past.  In the meantime, you have one more semester to go. 

By the way, I learned one other thing this semester.  Since every lecture was videoed, for the first time in my career I watched myself teach.  I have a much more noticeable southern accent than I thought.

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