A New World for Students

By Kyla Farroll posted 04-30-2020 04:37 AM


In my last blog post, I focused on how campus leadership, staff and faculty transitioned to remote work and instruction due to COVID-19. Today, we’ll focus on hardships students are facing in a truly virtual world.


Online Learning vs. Campus and Classrooms

Students across the globe and of all ages had a sudden change of pace when schools closed their physical doors and opened windows into online classrooms. There have been a multitude of challenges for parents, teachers, and administrators to overcome, and students are still reeling from the impacts. Gone are the daily routines, interacting with classmates, school lunches, and after school activities. Students are finding themselves isolated at home with very few outlets for socializing and physical activity. While this affects all ages and grades, college students living on campus had to abruptly pack up and head back home midway through their semesters with very little notice, adding additional upheaval to an already stressful situation.


Impact of Social Distancing

I’ve heard some debate on this term, as people reinforce the need to maintain physical distance while also attempting to increase social interactions with video conferencing and more check-ins with family and friends. Considering our student populations, the term ‘social distancing’ is appropriate as reducing physical proximity does truly translate into a reduction in socialization. It will be interesting to see future data and studies on the benefits of these daily interactions and their impacts to humans, particularly on our youth; interactions that we have likely taken for granted up until this point and accepted them as normal day-to-day activities. Interpersonal communication, whether it’s actual conversations or simply reading someone’s body language and facial expressions, go a long way into understanding someone’s well-being, and students could be missing out on those opportunities to openly share frustrations or be prompted to express themselves.


Postponement and Cancellation of Major Events

Of everything we are seeing related to social impacts to our students, the postponement and cancellation of events such as performances, athletics, and graduations is probably the most heartbreaking result of the COVID-19 safer at home orders. Students are moving into different chapters of their lives, and these social rituals are a significant part of representing that transition, and a way to say goodbye to their old lives and move on to new and exciting times. We have seen students dedicate themselves to physical fitness and training, rehearsing and memorizing lines from scripts, and spending countless hours striving for academic excellence. Now, athletes do not have games for competition, performers do not have stages to demonstrate their craft, and intellectuals will not be rewarded by walking across the graduation stage to be acknowledged for those achievements. The elimination of these rites of passage associated with hard work and dedication from our students certainly adds to the distress of this already unprecedented situation.


Personal Health and Finance

While the points above are very real and could have significant impacts on many students, the two most damaging side effects to the COVID-19 pandemic are the effects on their family’s individual health and financial concerns. We have all seen the statistics from around the globe on the spread of COVID-19, and many of us know people directly or indirectly who have tested positive, become ill, or possibly even succumbed to the effects of the virus. As we help our students cope with the new normal, we also must be mindful of students who have suffered from COVID-19 either themselves, a member of their family, a friend, or someone in their social circle. As students grapple with the effects of social distancing or missing out on cherished events, they may also be grieving the loss of loved ones which carries a far heavier weight and lasting effects. In addition to medical ramifications, we have also seen the toll this virus has taken on our economy and the drastic rise in unemployment. Students who have financial responsibilities have been furloughed or lost their jobs outright, and many are now in households with guardians who share the same fate. Financial stress can weigh heavily on the minds of all in the household and are exacerbated by the uncertainty of how long it will be before people worldwide can resume life as we know it.


Making the Most of Virtual Reality

Amidst this gloom and doom, as both adults and educators we can support our students through this time by encouraging them to take advantage of the changes in routine:

  • Embrace the new normal – rather than dwelling on what we can’t do, let’s tap into what we can Some people have more time to learn new things, and many businesses – especially technology companies – are offering services and online trainings free, or at a drastically reduced cost. Take advantage of these deals, try something new, and skill-up in areas that are of interest. As our students deal with the stresses of the world today, focusing on something new could also be a worthwhile and much needed distraction.
  • Stay connected – while we are missing our personal and face-to-face interactions, keep making the connections using alternative methods. Have a video chat, call someone, or record and send or post videos of household and outdoor activities. Seeing faces or hearing voices, even through technology, is better than nothing.
  • Go back to the basics – as families are clustered together indoors, make the most of that time by reconnecting. Dust off the board games, play cards, and have more family meals. If there wasn’t time before due to hectic work, school and activity schedules, make the most of that family time now.


Almost daily, we hear the phrase ‘unprecedented time’, but there’s really no better way to say it. Everyone is suffering, some more than others, and we need to stay encouraged, hopeful, and be kind to one another. Let’s continue to help our students through this stressful period and know that we’ll come out on the other side stronger, more resilient, and – hopefully – with a deeper respect and appreciation for each other.