The class of 2021 graduates ‘Zoom University’

Students share how the pandemic has affected their senior year.

Natalie Willis, News Editor

Last year, Biola hosted a drive-thru commencement ceremony for graduates, but this year three in-person ceremonies allow families to attend. After a year of remote learning, many graduates will be reconvening at commencement for the first time since COVID-19 hit, communication and sciences disorders major Kiarra Edwards explained. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Spring 2021 commencement will allow no more than five guests per graduate to attend the ceremony in person, but all three ceremonies will be livestreamed on YouTube

ADJUSTING EXPECTATIONS 

On March 23, 2020, Biola transitioned to a fully online format via Zoom as a precaution against COVID-19. The pandemic halted all in-person classes, separating the Biola community until the gradual phased reopening in Spring 2021. Graduating senior journalism major Quinn Gorham explained in an email that the past year of online learning disrupted his senior year. 

It hit me the other day that there are people that I saw for the last time ever last March and I didn’t even realize it,” Gorham said. “Three-eighths of my college semesters have been impacted in some way by COVID. I feel like I missed out on a huge chunk of the college experience.” 

Both Edwards and Gorham enjoyed the ease of rolling out of bed and dialing in to class but found it difficult to remain fully engaged in lectures. Edwards explained that she had to adjust her expectations of senior year as she spent her last semester online from an Airbnb in Buena Park. 

“At first I was like ‘OK this is nice and has a little bit of flexibility, I can go in my pajamas,’ but as it progressed, it got a lot tougher and I think even now it’s tough to keep motivation online,” Edwards said. 

STRUGGLING ONLINE 

College students’ satisfaction with their education decreased sharply, according to a survey from Digital Promise and Research Associates administered to a random national sample of 1,008 undergraduates. The lack of in-person instruction created a factor of anxiety for some students like environmental sciences major Caleb Vivanco.

“It was just kind of a constant not knowing what was next,” Vivanco said. “Not knowing when things would be able to go back to normal, when I would be able to see people again that I haven’t seen in a while, if I’d be able to have an in-person experience again. That was one way it affected me.”  

Undergraduate students struggled to stay motivated and missed receiving feedback from instructors and collaborating with fellow students. Fifty seven percent of students lost interest in their courses after they were moved online and 50% did not feel included as a member of the class, the survey found. 

FINDING COMMUNITY

Both Vivanco and Edwards were able to secure housing with friends while continuing their education remotely. While it was a disappointing year in terms of missing out on extracurricular activities, living with friends gave Vivanco a community to embrace. 

“I’m very thankful because I have been living with old Biola friends, most of whom graduated last year,” Vivanco said. “So, I haven’t been completely without community and I’ve had other friends in the area that I’ve been able to see.” 

In the midst of Zoom fatigue and a lack of on-campus community and events, living with friends has been good for mental health, Edwards explained.

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