Students Persevere During Online Transition

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Journalism students are taking one day at a time and making the best of it. We asked students to write about their personal experience with the transition to online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student Bailey Cichon editing a video.
Bailey editing video for Multimedia News Production course.

Bailey Cichon, Sophomore
Journalism and American Studies

My professors have made my transition to online classes painless. I have received nothing but support and flexibility. I have been able to download the Adobe software I need for my multimedia classes. My classes have structured attending lectures and participating in class in a way that people can work at their own pace.

I am especially grateful for the classes like Charles Munro and Angie Looney's Multimedia News classes that have continued live lectures. Being able to see the faces of my professors and classmates has brightened life in quarantine. These classes were always the highlight of my week and I still look forward to them today. Before classes start, we check in with each other and share about our new lives. I have been able to confide in Charles and Angie about concerns I have about COVID-19 affecting my summer plans. They have offered support and possible solutions. I know that my professors, especially my Journalism school professors, genuinely care about me. I was awarded the Jerry Feniger International Radio and Television Society summer fellowship. I was planning to spend this summer in New York City, but unfortunately due to the pandemic, it was recently canceled.

Before campus closed, I had five jobs and participated in multiple student organizations while balancing 17 semester hours. I looked at my schedule from February and it was packed. I don't know how I could have done more! I feel like most of my days were spent running to all of my commitments. Transitioning to online classes has helped me to reset and take time for myself. I'm grateful for this opportunity to slow down, but I miss the things I've had to give up. I especially miss working in the Daily Iowan TV newsroom and living on campus with my friends. Overall, I feel confidant that I will finish the semester strong because of the support and accommodations my professors have made in light of the pandemic.

Student Jack Martin working on homework.
Jack working on his Music Journalism course.

Jack Martin, Junior
Journalism and Political Science

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the extended period of no classes. It was great getting to reset and relax at home, waking up whenever I couldn’t fight the light creeping through my blinds and parking myself in front of my TV to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare like I was back in middle school. My initial reaction to classes being moved online was excitement. I’d taken an online class during the fall of my sophomore year and enjoyed learning from my couch so I was more than open to it. After all, it was initially supposed to just be the first two weeks after spring break. As a junior in the journalism school, many of my classes primarily involved group discussions and it seemed like they’d translate to Zoom calls.

As COVID-19 began to spread rapidly throughout the United States, classes were moved online for the remainder of the semester. My excitement began to fade and my skepticism grew. After my first Zoom class, I was doubtful that this would be a learning experience that I could thrive in. There was nobody to keep me in check but myself. If I wanted to, I could scroll through Twitter without distracting anybody and even turn my camera off to do whatever I wanted. Even though it’s not, school felt optional when I had to click a link to go to class every day.

My motivation was non-existent until I had my first major assignment post-Zoom transition. I was tasked with writing a midterm paper for Music Journalism, taught by Don McLeese, my favorite class I’ve taken at Iowa. The topic was up to me so I decided to write about my favorite musical artist, The Weeknd, and the evolution of his sound throughout his career. It was tough to get going but once I started typing, it all came together. I finished it, had my girlfriend, Haley, edit it, and turned it in. Getting the grade back was the push I needed to strap in and get back to work.

It’s still hard for me to sit through my nearly two-hour German class on Tuesdays and Thursdays without losing focus. We’re in the midst of a once-in-a-century event, it’s tough to be completely dialed in on school. Finding the motivation to get assignments done early is a bit of a struggle but it’s getting easier. I’m glad that we’re able to continue our education in some way while almost everything else has grinded to a halt. There’s still a few weeks left so by the end, I assume that I’ll have figured out how to navigate my online education.

Student Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw working on online classes.
Mikhayla taking online classes from home.

Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw, Senior

We are just over one month into this new “normal” of social distancing and about three weeks into our transition for online learning at the UI.  Although this month was filled with many challenges and every changing restrictions, I’ve settled into a routine of sorts. I am finally finding a balance between working from home, participating in online classes and doing remote reporting for my upcoming fellowship. 

As a graduating senior, I would be lying if I said I did not shed a tear after learning our commencement ceremonies were canceled for the spring.  Walking across that stage is something I’ve looked forward to since stepping foot on campus in Fall 2015. As a first-generation college graduate, I am breaking the cycle and setting an example for my three younger siblings.  

Realizing I unexpectedly spent my last days in my self-claimed cubicle in the Student Center is still hard to accept.  I truly miss the students and SJMC faculty/staff every day.  The comrade and community in the Adler Journalism Building is unmatched. I am both thankful and grateful to continue my job from home.  Being a Peer Mentor is one of my greatest achievements in my time at the UI. 

I know that my disappointment is a small drop in the mess of trails and struggles people are facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  I am continuously thinking about the millions of Americans who are unemployed. I am thinking of the high school seniors who are missing their prom and commencement ceremony.  I am thinking of the less-fortunate families who are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table. I am thinking of the families who lost a loved one to this virus. There is so much heartbreak in our world and it’s important to acknowledge how we can help our communities during this time. Although I know my feelings of disappointment are valid, it is crucial to think about the overall situation during this time.  We must take care of ourselves and our loved ones. 

My professors, my fellowship directors and the SJMC faculty and staff and are offering endless support during this transition.  To fulfill my journalism requirements, I am enrolled in the Entertainment Media course taught by Don Mcleese. I am also remotely serving as a News21 investigative reporting fellow, hosted by Arizona State University.  In my Entertainment Media course, our discussions are still engaging and fruitful thanks to my instructor Don’s persistence and dedication to our learning. As for my current reporting gig, News21 is relying heavily on the new remote trends in news with video calling.  I can honestly say I’d be very lost without Zoom right now. (As would the rest of the UI.)

I recently saw a quote that gave me hope: “The quarantine won’t last forever.  Work on something that will.”  We will not live our lives behind a computer screen forever.  What we do with this extra free time, however, is so important.  I hope we re-enter our face-to-face lives with newfound or renewed passions and strategies to grow.  

I know our campus will thrive once again. The coffee shops, eateries and boutiques of downtown IC will be waiting for us when the pandemic guidelines are lifted. We’ll watch the Hawkeyes beat our rival schools once again at Carver and Kinnick.  More all-nighters will ensue at the Main Library.  Although my time in SJMC is coming to an end, I know our remaining and future students will grow and will lead the next generation of storytellers. 

I know the UI will make it through this.  We stand together.

Student Lucy Roden working from home.
Lucy set up a TV studio in her home to continue working.

Lucy Roden, Senior
Journalism and Sports Studies

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30 am you’d find me on the third floor of Adler Journalism Building signing into my Advanced Topics in Designing and Producing class; but following the COVID-19 outbreak that’s all changed. Now they consist of waking up at 9:20, opening up my laptop and signing into a zoom meeting with my classmates and professor. We still meet in our individual groups, discuss our projects, and talk about how our class and lives have changed since the last time we met in person. Outside of not being able to interact in person, not much has changed about our class. We’re still able to work together in the comfort of our own homes. There's the occasional technical glitch, students wearing a blanket to class, and the awkward moments about meeting online that make us all laugh.

Along with my classes transitioning online I’m still able to work on my own personal projects. I’ve still been able to film, write, and edit a personal TV show I put together for my website and twitter account. My living room has been converted to my own studio and outside of not having a prompter, it does the job well! It’s so nice to still be able to create content and keep my skills fresh during a time where people are looking for any form of entertainment.

This was not the way I planned for my senior year at Iowa to end, and this was not how any of us expected this school year to wrap up. But when life hands you lemons, you find a way to transition everything online so that you can keep going, and then you make lemonade. The support from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications during this unusual period has been constant and helpful. The school has done everything they can to make sure we have the resources we need not only to get through our classes, but to navigate the new world that’s going on around us.


Wenqi Ding
Wenqi studying at home this semester.

Wenqi (Alice) Ding, Senior

When I first found out that all classes would become online for the rest of the semester, I thought it would be challenging. However, with the support from all professors and faculty, the transition was so much easier than I could imagine. Even if I am unable to meet with professors in-person, I can easily connect with professors through email or zoom. Professor Dalrymple and professor Ripka provide me lots of help with my Honors project, and the basic web design class with professor Ripka also went smoothly. The videos recorded for classes and assignments are easy to follow.  Without traveling from home to school and classroom to classroom, I save lots of time and my schedule is more flexible.

As an international senior student, the outbreak of COVID-19 is making a huge impact on my plan for graduation. It’s hard for me to decide whether to stay at Iowa after graduation or go back to China at this point. Our advisor Anna provides me lots of help with all changes in this process.

As I get so much support from school, I hope I could also do something for others during this difficult time. Many international students like me stay far away from home and many people feel anxious, especially international students’ parents who lack information about what’s going on here and worried about their kids. I wrote an article on our SJMC WeChat account, to provide updates on the COVID-19 data and school policy daily. WeChat is a highly used social media platform by Chinese people. I also created a group chat for people to share their thoughts and concerns there. I am very pleased every time someone thanks me for providing updated information. I hope we can go back to normal life soon and back to campus!