Some of Highline’s classes have been switched back to online from live meetings because of concerns over the spread of COVID via the Omicron variant.
But after nearly two years of dealing with COVID restrictions, students say they’re used to it. Some Highline Students are now saying that the new changes that the college has implemented for the rest of this month are actually better for them.
Highline administrators gave faculty the option to switch classes from live in-person on Jan. 11, extending to Jan. 28, in light of a surge in COVID cases related to the Omicron variant of the virus.
Omicron brought with it a fresh wave of cases in the United States, topping 250,000 a day in late December, leading college officials to offer options to faculty and students.
Student Davonya Jackson said her sociology class is being transferred to online, and that right now she prefers and likes that her class was changed to an online format.
“Online classes have more flexibility than in-person classes or Zoom sessions,” she said. “Since I have children, online classes make it possible for me to take care of them while still continuing to be in college.”
Beshara, another Highline student, also said she prefers online classes versus in person her reason being that “it’s just easier to schedule.”
Other students said only one of their classes had been transferred from in-person to Zoom sessions, but still they all agreed that they prefer in-person learning since in their opinion it’s easier to learn. But if it came down to it, the students said, they would choose Zoom sessions over fully online classes.
Other students said that they don’t really care whether a class is online or in person, but would prefer a hybrid course with elements of in-person, online and Zoom.
Several students said they prefer in-person classes since they can learn alongside their classmates and contacting the professor or classmates is much easier than in online classes.
Also, some students said that being in person can help develop their social skills and meet new people, which is important to international students in particular.
“I want to improve my English skills and make new friends and socialize. I can communicate and ask questions easier,” said one international student.
“Me personally I’d prefer to be in class because I can focus more, but since I’m working a full-time job online is the only option for me,” said another student, Alwyn Parades.
Nonetheless, some classes remain live and in-person.
“This class cannot be replaced by online classes because I have to make pottery or ornaments by hand-making clay,” said Hazel Mendes, who is taking Ceramics.
“I wear a mask and a face shield at all times to make it safer,” she said. “I’m a little anxious about Omicron variants, but I’ve been fully vaccinated and I’m looking forward to the experience of creating objects with clay.”
“I did not expect this to happen although my in-person classes have not changed to online yet,” said another student, Adsa Sasvr. “It is a struggle because wearing face shields on top of the masks in class, personally makes it harder for me to see the board as well as communicating with others.”
In addition to classes, Omicron is affecting professors’ office hours. Faculty have been asked to continue coming to campus for office hours, but they can choose to hold Zoom office hours with students instead of face-to-face meetings for safety reasons, said Tim Wrye of the Highline Public Health & Hybrid Operations Leadership Council.
Highline will not be changing on-campus student service schedules, but Wrye said that some services may require temporary adjusting in case of staff shortages. If potential changes occur, the college will communicate to the campus and those affected.
“We are doing all we can to maintain those service levels and also maintain a safe environment for all involved,” said Wrye, speaking on behalf of the Public Health & Hybrid Operations Council.
Reporters Nyrelle Vital, Ashley Nand, Jungeun Lee, Melany Velasco and Rebecca Zenger contributed to this story.