COVID-19 Can’t Stop Students From Working Together and Being Heard

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English, Theatre, and World Languages
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“In a normal year,” said instructor Sara Oswald, “each student in the PRE 3450 Publication Design class produces an individual document demonstrating the skills they have learned during the semester.” Of course, the end of Spring 2020 was far from normal. Instead of returning to the classroom after spring break, the students shifted to remote learning. But Oswald wanted their work to be as collective as possible.

“This year,” Oswald said, “the students have collaborated, via Canvas, to produce a collective document presenting their individual reflections on the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on their lives. Each two-page spread was created by an individual student, constrained only by some common typographical and design specfications imposed by their instructor to ensure a degree of consistency throughout.”

The collectively created document allowed readers to see the early days of the pandemic through the eyes of some of our majors and minors, as well as Journalism and Mass Communication students in both words and images.

Taylor Strickland wrote, “It is crazy to think . . . that we are witnessing and experiencing history. What we have been through, what we have done, and what we are going to do in the future as a result of COVID-19 will be in textbooks for future generations to be able to learn and know what their ancestors had to go through, what they did to stop it, and how they overcame it. I have watched the world come to a halt but also come together because of a virus.”

Shayna Bethel added, “I’ve become painfully aware of what living through a major historical event is like,” and she noted that “Shakespeare allegedly wrote King Lear during his quarantine. I watched two straight seasons of Gossip Girl in my pajamas . . . . The point is, the world is going through a massive shock. We don’t know how to be idle, and instead have begun spiraling into madness as we try to be the Best Isolation Winner . . . . We’re very clearly scared of what might happen once we stop forcing productivity in the middle of a pandemic. Perhaps idleness is not our savior, but our enemy.”

Dazmon Tanner offered a poignant reflection on the many stresses students had in juggling the expectation of school and home, as well as the responses to the virus she saw around her.  “Most [students] were more worried about getting sick than their grades because the grades were not more important than their health," Tanner said. "People who worked also had to stay home and couldn’t make money.” “Frankly, I’m a little disappointed [by] those who keep going out, not because they need things at home but because they’re tired at being home. It seems that they’re not worried about it [the virus] or worried about giving it to others.”

Others reflected on the ways COVID allowed them to re(discover) passions. Junior Rebekah Crosson noted that baking and gardening were “therapeutic” for her under the stress of being home all day without contact with her loved ones and found class readings had new impact under these new conditions. For senior Megan Munroe, turning to pursuits “such as painting and writing . . . has been fulfilling . . . . The fact that I have been able to work on the things that inspire me and give me a sense of purpose has drastically increased my personal happiness. I forgot just how important it was to take the time for myself to work on the things I enjoy.”

 About the students' project, Oswald noted, “This document was produced by people working in isolation, connected only by computers, all striving to achieve a common goal—a pretty good metaphor for the way life has been for most of us over the past few months. We hope you find the results enlightening.”

The collaborative document can be downloaded using the link at the end of this article.