Story by Cassie Sistoso / Assitant News Editor
Photo via MTSU
The 2021 fall semester at Middle Tennessee State University has just begun, and it is safe to say that although COVID-19 is still a present aspect of campus life, things still look very different from last year.
With a university mask mandate still in full force and vaccines readily available and encouraged, students can attend in-person classes this semester with a better sense of safety and precaution thanks to proactive and preventative measures taken by MTSU.
Due to in-person classes dominating over online courses, the campus has sprung back to life, full of students ready to meet their peers and learn in a face-to-face environment. The campus is a thriving spectacle for newcomers and sophomore students who have not had ordinary education experiences in the last two years.
Compared to the empty parking lots, walks between classes, or socially distanced classrooms and recreational areas of last semester, this school year’s crowded sidewalks and full parking lots are overwhelming and new.
Although preventative measures still do not have the university back into the full swing of normalcy, the adjustment has been a step that has been staggering but overall positive. “Even though there are a lot of people, it’s been nice because you can tell people actually take COVID seriously here,” says freshman Stephanie Hall.
“It makes me feel more comfortable to be interactive and social, and with COVID changing things at any second, every moment like that is really worth something,” she continued.
For upper-class students, in-person meetings have been a relief but also an area of tenseness. With specialized program classes surfacing towards the end of individual students’ experiences, hands-on learning is critical.
“It’s nice to be back on campus, but I’m starting to get concerned about the students that aren’t vaccinated and how that will affect the rest of the year. I’m really behind in my major because of having to go through a year and a half of online [learning],” says junior Ethan Concors.
With the extensive options for expertise in the particular majors that MTSU offers, major classes often do not translate to online learning formats as successfully as they would normally.
Vaccinations are a solution that the student body encourages to ensure that everyone can receive the education they deserve in every specified area of need in all major programs.
Faculty also share this sentiment after interacting with their students face-to-face for the first time last week. After a whole year transitioning into online learning resources such as Zoom and D2L, in-person learning environments have returned, though they will likely never be the same.
“The learning side has really improved this year,” says Chris Bacon, a professor at MTSU. “Students are more engaged when they get to be around each other and in a physical setting…but we also now have preventative measures [due to COVID] that make us more mindful of illness and the accessibility of the classroom.”
A new technology that allows classes to be live-streamed and recorded is now available and applied to most in-person courses at MTSU, allowing for a better range of learning environments and options for students to pick from or adjust to according to their personal needs.
While all of the students and faculty at MTSU enjoy the changes of this year’s learning experiences with trepidation, the transition that has allowed for in-person interaction socially and academically feels like a breath of fresh air for a university that has been holding its breath for the last three semesters.
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