NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Treveon Hayes is not letting anything stop him from completing his course work and ultimately getting his college degree – not even the coronavirus.
The Tennessee State University freshman is among countless students at higher education institutions across the country who have transitioned to online learning as a precaution to contracting COVID-19.
“It’s been an adjustment, but I have goals, and I can’t let anything stop me from reaching them,” says Hayes, an elementary education major from Memphis, Tennessee.
Earlier this month, TSU President Glenda Glover and other university administrators held a live meeting via Zoom with over 200 student leaders to assure them that TSU is dedicated to accommodating them while they finish the semester remotely as a result of the virus.
“We are going to do everything humanly possible to accommodate you to ensure that you succeed in spite of this very daunting challenge,” said Dr. Glover. “It is tough for everyone across the world as we face the daily uncertainties and dangers that this virus presents. We’re going to do whatever we can to ensure that you remain whole.”
TSU students say they appreciate the effort of university faculty and staff, but they acknowledge the distance learning has been challenging because of the absence of things like face to face interaction with their instructors.
“We were able to go to their office, now it’s mainly emails,” says Rekha Berry, a senior from Mobile, Alabama, majoring in history and political science. “I definitely miss the face to face with instructors.”
Nevertheless, they are finding ways to adjust. For Hayes, who has two to four classes a day, he practices better time management.
“After class, I give myself about five minutes to use the restroom, grab a snack, then get right back to class,” adds Hayes. “I have to time manage myself. The work has to be done. No excuses.”
Jakori Hollinger, a music education major from Montgomery, Alabama, says the lack of in-person instruction has caused him to do more reading and research in order to understand certain concepts.
“Whereas, if I was sitting in front of them, they could just show me how to do it,” says Hollinger, “I could just pick it up and it would be no issue.”
However, despite the circumstances, he lauded TSU’s faculty and staff for “working with students to make this transition as easy as possible.”
On March 16, TSU was the first public university in Tennessee to transition to all online classes as a result of COVID-19.
Dr. Robbie Melton, interim dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at TSU, says prior to the coronavirus the university was exploring several types of online options for students.
“We were already positioned to transition online when the coronavirus hit, which is why it only took us less than a week for a full transition,” says Melton. “We had the software and the tools and the training. And we had faculty training every day, including weekends, to assist the faculty in this new norm.”
Dr. Cheryl Seay is executive director of TSU’s Global Online and the lead person in helping TSU’s faculty transition to online instruction. She says sessions are held seven days a week via Zoom to address faculty questions or concerns, and she’s pleased with the participation and adjustment.
“The faculty have really stepped up to the plate,” says Seay. “They are doing everything they can to embrace this. I’m just really proud of our faculty.”
Dr. Tina Smith, chair of TSU’s Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, set up the first distance education program for the state of Tennessee in the area of speech pathology when she came to TSU in 2005. As a result, Smith says her students have had an easier time adjusting to remote learning. The biggest change she’s had to make involves the clinical component.
“I now use clinical simulation, virtual patients,” says Smith. “Real clients, but online. We’re also using Zoom to do telehealth with our clients. That’s the new frontier for speech pathology.”
Dr. Learotha Williams, an associate professor of history at TSU, says he realizes these are difficult times for everyone, which is why he checks on the well-being of his students at the beginning of each online class.
“I ask how each of them are doing, and what I can do to assist,” says Williams. “I also ask them to write a journal entry about how the coronavirus is impacting their lives where they live. It allows them to put their feelings on paper. And as a historian, it’s given me a wide gaze of what students are going through during this period.”
Like many students, Dr. Robert Elliott, chair of TSU’s Music Department, says he too misses the face-to-face interaction. He described the challenge of trying to virtually help a student who was playing Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on his bass guitar.
“I’ve got my instrument (bass guitar) in my living room, and he’s got his instrument in his living room,” says Elliott. “He told me at one point, ‘Doc, I can’t wait until we’re back in your office.’ I said me too.”
TSU has 23 distance education undergraduate and graduate programs and will offer most of the classes online this summer. Summer sessions are scheduled to begin in late May, early June. To learn more, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/aeao/.
For more on campus operations affected by the coronavirus, and student information, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/covid19.
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About Tennessee State University
With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.