Suspension of face-to-face classes in March 2020 left students wondering how they were to continue their education amid a global pandemic. Every university had challenges navigating higher-level education while also accommodating students in every corner of the globe. 

With Florida Tech’s vast demographic, professors and students alike were in a constant state of developing policies and expectations. Despite the setbacks and uncertainties, Florida Tech as a campus emerged as a community capable of handling ever-changing circumstances. 

One of the earliest solutions for managing the effects of COVID-19 was the adoption of Zoom as the primary platform to stream classes to students who were confined to their homes. Students and professors both experienced difficulties when it came to the handling of Zoom classes. 

“The rapid onset of COVID made it really challenging to adapt to online learning,” Benjamin Komita, a graduate student in Ocean Engineering, said. 

Komita emphasized how the hardest part of hybrid classes was the inconsistencies among professors. “Some professors had open-book exams that were open for 24 hours, some required you to have your camera on, and I had classes where we didn’t even have exams at all. It was just hard managing six to seven classes who all had different testing protocols.” 

Komita also recognized that some professors went the extra mile to make sure students could excel in such an evolving environment. “Dr. Gordon Patterson’s American History course was extremely structured and transparent. He always kept an open line of communication and was very understanding that every student was in a different situation.”

There are some aspects of hybrid learning that students would welcome continuing for years to come. “I think students have appreciated recorded lectures. I know for me personally, there’s not as much pressure to write everything on the slides since I can go back and rewatch a lecture to see the problem explained once more through,” Komita said.

Florida Tech also had to accommodate high school students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the suspension of face-to-face classes, Florida Tech’s Admissions Department stayed operational, continuing to offer campus tours to prospective students. 

When asked if COVID-19 has affected the ability to properly represent the university, Karla Medina, a student ambassador studying Aviation Management said, “It’s definitely been more challenging, but our team has found ways to be more creative.” 

Due to COVID travel restrictions and mandates, many students were not able to visit Florida Tech prior to National College Decision Day on May 1. To showcase what encapsulates campus life at Florida Tech, the Admissions Department started offering semiweekly online student panels where prospective students could join a roundtable discussion with around six student ambassadors. 

In these panels, prospective students could ask questions about academics, student life, athletics, and much more. “We’ve implemented student panels so students can still talk to us whether they are able to come to visit or not. Although it didn’t capture the same effect as a campus tour, we were still able to answer specific questions that they may have,” Medina said. 

“I believe we have done a great job with keeping our reputation as a high-level university. We have been constantly improving what we do as a team, and we have all become better at handling difficult situations like COVID-19,” Medina said.

Despite inconsistencies, trials, and alterations, Florida Tech has demonstrated its resiliency. Students, professors, and administrators alike, each person on this campus was forced to quickly adopt a completely new mindset, one centered around flexibility. 

Because of this determination, on March 18 former University President T. Dwayne McCay issued a statement stating, “Brevard County is in the “low” transmission category” indicating that masks are optional indoors. 

Since lifting the face mask requirement, the weekly COVID-19 cases have not exceeded single digits. This is another testament to the hard work students and faculty alike have been committed to throughout the lifespan of the pandemic. 

The ongoing pandemic did pose a serious threat to the effectiveness of higher education and yet, we have arrived in 2022 better equipped to face future endeavors just as the Panthers before.

 

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