Online semester dampened senior experience

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Photo illustration by Patrick Murphy

With the Fall 2020 semester being nearly exclusively online, graduating students are facing a unique experience.

Jack Baudoin, Columnist

The university announced Oct. 8 that the Spring 2021 semester will be along the lines of the Fall 2020 semester. For seniors, this means their last memories of college will be of sitting behind a computer. Not only does this mean seniors will miss out on certain opportunities, it will also put a damper on the end of their college experience.

While online classes are not the end of the world for general education, certain majors require hands-on experience students are unable to receive in this form of schooling. For example, senior nursing student Gian Lacanlale said he is now unable to complete  his hospital clinicals. 

“With how last-minute the shift of things [was], we were supplemented with digital simulation software to get as close to a hospital experience as we could,” Lacanlale said. 

While he is still getting the knowledge he needs, most students know there is a big difference between a simulation and real experience, between tangibly being somewhere vs seeing a picture of it on a screen.

“Not being able to do one of my hospital clinical sites in person is something I think I wish I had,” Lacanlale said.

Even if certain classes do not require as much hands-on experience, many students prefer being in the classroom because they learn better there than they do behind their laptop screen. 

I love my in-person classes since it’s easier to receive help and ask questions,” Campbell Petschke, senior media studies major, said. “With online class, I feel like it’s more difficult to ask questions and a bit harder to focus since you don’t have to be there in the classroom.” 

Not only does next semester being online take away learning experiences like this for seniors, it also takes away some of the excitement from the end of their college career, including no more parties, study sessions or social interaction. 

“I had moved from a community college last year, so coming in as a junior felt like culture shock,” Petschke said. “Especially with the amount of people I’ve met, it has definitely had a big affect on me to not have them around as much.”

Because this might be the last year seniors see certain friends and professors, they crave the classroom environment to make final memories before entering the real world. What would typically be a year filled with unforgettable memories is now being replaced with moments of isolation, and that is something students will certainly never forget. 

Not seeing my peers I usually see in my program is disheartening,” Lacanlale said.

The end of their college careers will involve finishing their degree  alone, and that is not what they anticipated when they applied to go to NIU.

The fact that NIU is sticking with online schooling next semester is a good idea. In fact, it is probably the smartest and safest idea. However, that does not change the fact that it is affecting seniors in a negative way. What should be a time of companionship and living in the moment has turned into a time of solidarity. It will leave a lasting mark. I’ll miss not being able to make as many personal connections here though,” Petschke said. “My favorite part of coming to NIU was getting to meet people from all over the place and having professors that actually cared.”