JONESBORO — Arkansas State University is in uncharted territory.
In response to the COVID-19 international pandemic, Arkansas State has shifted to an all-online format for both students and faculty, while also implementing a new (optional) grading system.
Once final grades are posted, students will have the option of using a “Credit/No Credit” replacement for the letter grade. All passing grades would simply be replaced as “credit”, while all failing grades can simply be “no credit” on students’ respective transcripts.
However, these changes come with a new set of issues for students who need letter grades. The students can, of course, keep the letter grade they receive, but for many, this is worrisome.
The drastic change in the entire academic landscape of the 2020 spring semester has negatively impacted students across the nation, especially at Arkansas State, and students’ grades could slip in the process.
Unfortunately, these students do not have much of a voice in these matters, and are simply along for the ride as their academic careers are threatened by an outside force that seemingly came out of nowhere. So we wanted to give them one.
Below is a Q&A with four Arkansas State students concerning these drastic changes amid the global pandemic. It’s time those impacted the most had a chance to voice their concerns
Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Hometown: Jonesboro, Arkansas
How do you feel about having classes online for the rest of the semester?
If I were just a traditional student, it would be fine I suppose. The problems come with students like me who are also parents, especially parents of young children. Due to COVID-19 all the schools and daycares are closed so I’ve lost childcare. That means I have to figure out what to do with my children during my three hour classes. Things can get complicated very fast.
I’ve had to leave the online class early to take care of children several times and I feel like I miss out on important topics. I think that professors don’t always take into account that just because people are at home doesn’t mean they can attend class with no barriers.
I feel like doing pre-recorded lectures and allowing students to watch them on their own time makes more sense than having students try to figure out how they are going to take care of their children while also attending a class discussion.
How do you feel about your quality of education during all of this?
I would say it’s declined. Everyone’s life has changed. Most people are just doing school from home. They are doing school, work, caring for children, housekeeping, etc. You’ve got multiple roles overlapping and it’s hard to keep those roles separate when they all have to occur under the same roof.
What are your thoughts on the credit/non-credit system? Do you think you might use it?
For me personally, it’s not an option because I’m going on to doctorate school after I finish my masters and I need the highest GPA possible. But I do think it’s a great option for a lot of students, especially with some of those who are enrolled in classes that are difficult to pass under normal circumstances.
So how do you feel Arkansas State has handled the situation overall?
I think overall, they are doing the best they can in a difficult situation. I’ve been very impressed with Chancellor Kelly Damphousse’s emails and his concern with the safety of students, faculty, and staff. I also loved that he sent out an email regarding stress management during this difficult time that listed resources students and faculty can use to cope.
The faculty that I’ve had direct contact with have been very understanding of extensions of assignment deadlines and syllabus modifications, and I really hope the students and faculty can continue working together and communicating.
I’m really grateful to Dr. Sharon Davis and Dr. Stephanie Gotay in the counseling department for answering numerous emails from our cohort and for reminding us to take care of ourselves. I’m very proud to be a Red Wolf right now.
Psychology & Biology
Hometown: Marion, Arkansas
How do you feel about the sudden switch to online classes?
I agree with the decision, let me put that out there first. It’s the right move. COVID-19 is a beast we need to tackle head-on. That being said, it is putting a lot of students into a tricky situation. Many have been required to move off campus, so they’re having difficulty connecting to the internet. It’s especially troublesome for those who have family at home also working through the internet, live somewhere where these is poor internet, cannot afford reliable internet, or those who have fallen victim to the tornados.
I can talk about how I paid for one class and got another, or how I miss my professors and friends. But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that they’re really hurting students with suboptimal conditions at home many of them are first generation college students that are being given a great disadvantage that may hinder them from finishing their bachelors degree as planned, or evermore troublesome, put a dent in their transcript that holds them back from many post-bachelor plans.
Well, there is the credit/no credit option that has been put in place to curb some of the potential grading issues. What are your thoughts on that and do you think you might use it at the end of the semester?
I don’t know the conversations leading up to that decision, but what they’ve done — from the students’ perspective — is a cop-out.
“Hey this option is readily available to you because your entire educational foundation has been ripped to shreds; But, if you use it, your scholarships and post-grad plans may be slaughtered”
Seriously? Why even give the option then? There are no safeguards in place for us. Sure, if you’re ending with your Bachelor’s degree and paying out of pocket, maybe that can work. But what about the students that want to go further? What of the kids who are only going to college because they have these scholarships?
We have been thrown into online classes. Some of our poor professors have never even used BlackBoard. We really expect students to receive the best quality education and thus the best possible grades? It simply isn’t feasible. An “optional” credit/no credit isn’t optional at all. We know we only have one choice: suffer through and take the hit.
I love my university. I love the faculty here. I love my professors. I know they have my best interest at heart. But I need something different. What we’re doing is going to hurt a lot of students.
Hometown: Jonesboro, Arkansas
How do you feel about the sudden switch to online classes?
It’s very difficult since the majority of my classes are ensemble or performance oriented. I understand that it’s necessary to keep people safe, but it’s difficult to do a lot of my degree requirements in an online format.
How is your quality of education being affected, then, as a performance-based student?
Luckily, I feel like I’m getting a decent quality education from my teachers because they are working hard to work with these new resources and tailoring the classes to the students. Most of my education in performance comes from having opportunities to perform and with the switch, all of those opportunities have been canceled, as well as my study-abroad performance opportunities this summer.
And how do you feel about those cancelations?
It’s been very difficult. I’ve spent most of the last two semesters preparing music for my junior recital this semester, and it’s canceled. I was also given the opportunity to study in Italy over the summer, which would have been greatly beneficial for me since we don’t offer an Italian course at Arkansas State, and now that’s gone as well.
You typically live on campus. Has that status changed amid the COVID-19 precautions?
I still live on campus. Unfortunately, even though my family is from Jonesboro, my mom is a nurse and at high risk for being exposed to coronavirus, which could ultimately expose me to it. My dad takes medicine for his liver transplant, so he has a weakened immune system which would also leave him easily exposed.
I’m a very extroverted person, and the longer this goes on , the more difficult it gets. I’m having to spend a lot of time at my apartment in my room, and my only social interaction is through cameras. I’m trying to make it work, but it’s tiring not being able to be with people.
What are your thoughts on the credit/no credit system that’s been put in place, and do you think you might use it at the end of the semester?
I like the way A-State is handling it. Some people still need their grade for graduate applications, or to boost their GPA for those who have worked hard for it through all of this. I think it’s a great thing for students who are struggling more and just need to do the best they can under these circumstances. I am planning to use the credit/no credit system for my classes at the end of the semester.
Hometown: Piggot, Arkansas
How do you think the switch to all-online classes is going?
Fortunately, all of my professors have done a great job switching to online classes. I understand that the school year has to go on, but I know some students are struggling to make online classes work for them. The biggest struggle for me, personally, is that I thrive better in on-campus classes.
Going on campus and going to class motivates me to learn and do my work. I love learning with my peers, hearing my professors’ corny jokes, and having that classroom interaction. I’m able to pay more attention to a lecture in person than I am on a video. Not all professors do videos either, so there’s no lecture at all and students are having to teach themselves the material.
Some professors may have never taught an online class, and are struggling to switch over. It’s awesome that they are trying, but is it fair to the students’ education or grade they’ll receive? There needs to support for the faculty and students who are having a hard time with online classes. Online classes are by no means easy, especially for those who have a full-time schedule.
Kudos, to all the students and faculty at Arkansas State. We’re all doing our best to make this work and finish out the semester!
How do you feel about the new credit/no credit system?
I think that it’s going to work best for some students. It’ll help students who are struggling to keep up with the online work or don’t have access to the resources they need. It’ll also work for students whose professors did change their course work and may not be able to get their grade up. It’ll really help those who need the credits but don’t want the letter grade hurting their GPA.
The credit/no credit system doesn’t really work out for me because of the program I want to enter. They encouraged us all to take the letter grades because some courses require we have one.
I’m continuing to do the work and would rather be given the letter grade because I earned it. However, I do think professors should take this into consideration and possibly be more lenient when grading. Some students want that letter grade, but they’re having a hard time coping with everything and still trying their best.
How do you feel your quality of education has changed?
It’s been impacted tremendously. I don’t get the opportunity to see my professors or talk to them one on one if I’m having trouble understanding something. Sure I can email them, but that’s just not the same and sometimes not efficient. My professors can’t effectively teach material online that was meant to be taught with in-class.
I’m thankful that I’m not taking classes outside of my major because I probably would be lost in those classes.
I’ve been on campus for five years now and one day I will be an educator. I think that experience is helping me get through these online classes, but not every student has that experience or understanding of how to get through the material. That’s what our professors do, they teach and explain the material and keep the class moving at a pace where we can learn to the fullest extent. And again, I do better in class than I do teaching myself.
It kind of feels like I paid for more than what I got.