By Luke Danko
New Normal: Community College During A Pandemic
The halls of Norwalk Community College are less filled than years prior due to a new learning format that has students learning from home and in some cases, socially distanced classrooms.
When visiting the college, one must provide photo identification and be checked in. In buildings, masks are required, and reminders hang on walls and doors to inform people of safety protocol. On a regular school day, trailing echoes of footsteps in the hallway and the occasional beep or frequency static of a security guard’s radio can be heard.
In the General Forum at NCC, American Film Heritage is taught in-person on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. The class, led by Professor John Shields, sits students distanced from each other with green markers indicating which seats may be occupied. The professor and students wear masks also keeping distance when discussing class materials. The class, which otherwise runs as a normal lecture, is an example of the new learning format. A new normal which has brought changes to the NCC community.
“I much prefer in-person classes,” said Shields when asked about the online format. Shields is one of many NCC professors who have had to undergo changes in their teaching due to the new distanced learning protocols. Speaking in terms of the perspective of instructor and student, Shields says that “It doesn’t feel like it’s actually school because we’re all in our homes.”
Jessica Jameson, film major at NCC, said of the new format versus the old, “I think that both of them have some advantages and disadvantages.” Furthermore, Jameson felt that “certain classes are more suited to in person format versus online format.” When asked about the difficulty of switching formats, Jameson replied “Sometimes you kind of have to adjust your own learning style.” Jameson spoke of the difference between in-person discussion and online-based discussion, saying that online “…you don’t engage with the material in the way that you could [in person].”
“For some classes, I actually don’t mind the live remote,” said NCC student Adam Gerschwer. For Gerschwer, the most difficult part of the new format is “…not being in a classroom to actually ask questions.” Gerschwer participates in both remote and in-person classes and says that updates from teachers are helpful. Gerschwer said that with online classes, sometimes “…you don’t know where you stand.”
The changes of NCC learning formats have been in place since early in the pandemic and have ran through the entirety of the previous fall semester into the current spring. Shields said of the new format, “It takes an extra amount of motivation both on my part as the instructor and for the students…” NCC plans to remain in its new format for the duration of the spring semester.