Faculty, students react to transition to online classes amid COVID-19 outbreak

Xanayra Marin-Lopez, Reporter

After the UNC System’s reaction to COVID-19, App State faculty, staff and students hold concern for what’s to come of the transition from in-person to online learning.  

Per the email App State sent to students March 11, the university is extending spring break until 8 a.m. on March 23. The university still remains open. 

Starting March 23, App State will transition to “alternative course delivery methods.” Students were told through the same email that they will be provided with further information for future classroom instruction March 18.

First-year student Tehan McMahon said she understands the change.

“As a freshman, I don’t want to do online learning, but for the safety of our community, meaning people residing in Boone and older professors and faculty, I think it is considerate of their health since they are more at risk to die and become sick from it,” McMahon said.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, adults older than 65 and those with chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19.

Adam Hege, assistant professor of public health, wrote in an email that it is important everyone show an extra sense of empathy and seek to support one another. 

“These are not normal times, therefore, we should not expect the normal academic or Appalachian experience over the next several weeks,” Hege said.

Hege said that as a public health professor, it is intriguing to follow the news around the world and to be a voice for the community.

Prior to the break, I had mentioned to our students that this is a time where we’ve heard the words ‘public health’ much more than we typically do. We have public health efforts around us all of the time, but we often fail to recognize it until a crisis such as COVID-19 is upon us,” Hege said. 

In the United States, there have been 4,226 cases and 75 deaths as of March 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of March 15, the CDC recommends that for the next 8 weeks, in-person events consisting of 50 people or more be canceled or postponed. 

Senior Mason Lyons said upon moving from in-person to online instruction, there should be an emphasis on one-on-one Skype or Zoom meetings between students and professors.

“This transition is undoubtedly going to be tough for many students and professors alike so I think being sure professors have a way to communicate live with students is vitally important,” Lyons said. 

Associate Professor Carolyn Edy said faculty and staff have been preparing for the switch.

“What I’m hearing is that even faculty who have never taught online before or those who think it’s not necessarily a good fit for their classes are more than ready to do so because everyone’s health and wellbeing has to come first,” associate journalism professor Carolyn Edy said in a text message. 

Edy continued and said department chairs have been “asking us all week what we need in order to shift classes online, offering training sessions and generally trying to figure out what everyone needs in order to make it work as smoothly as it can.”

Moss Brennan contributed to this story.