Transitioning to online learning for the fall semester was not an ideal situation for Corey Cox. Still, despite COVID-19 taking away in-person learning experience, she remained determined to enroll at Fresno State.
“I would have a hard time going back to school when the pandemic has calmed down. I am just very appreciative that we can continue school, and everything wasn’t closed down completely,” Cox said.
Colleges nationwide have faced a significant decrease in enrollment, yet Fresno State has had a record high in enrollment this fall semester with about 25,300 students, the university reported.
Due to the coronavirus, Fresno State initiated the Welcome Home Initiative program to accommodate students who returned home from universities outside of the Central Valley and still wanted to continue their college education. Also, many students who were already enrolled at Fresno State chose to return for the fall semester.
Cox, a second-year biology major, chose to enroll for the fall semester to stay on track for graduation.
The pandemic’s stress accompanied with remaining disciplined in her online courses concerned her at first.
“I was very worried. I don’t have the best self-discipline and have struggled with online classes in the past. This made me worried that I would not be able to discipline myself and get my work done on time and with full effort,” Cox said.
Kobe Martinez-Moore, a junior history major with a minor in political science, also shared Cox’s concerns.
Martinez-Moore enrolled to continue his education and was worried about online courses due to the lack of in-person interaction with fellow students and professors.
“My initial feeling was that I was wary and nervous to be taught online, I am a visual and in-person kind of learner, so it was difficult at first to adjust to the changes,” Martinez-Moore said.
Despite these concerns, both Cox and Martinez-Moore said they eventually adapted to the new responsibilities and difficulties of online learning.
Cox said the transition was difficult initially, but it “became easier as time went on.”
Fresno State Interim President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said student enrollment was at a record high amidst a pandemic because of the efforts made by admissions and recruitment staff to work with students interested in enrolling at Fresno State.
“The decision early in May by the CSU chancellor’s office to keep instruction primarily virtual in the fall gave students the certainty with which to move forward with plans, instead of remaining in limbo, not knowing what their school would do,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.
For Olivia Woo, a second-year pre-nursing student, the university’s online learning announcement did not make her decision to enroll difficult.
“I didn’t really second guess enrolling since I figured the adjustment to online classes was going to be a big change but not that big of a challenge. I think with the times we’re in, we just have to be adaptable and go with the flow,” Woo said.
Yet, as the semester approaches its end, Woo said it was not the smoothest experience.
“As I’m reaching the end of the semester, though, I am a bit exhausted from online classes just because I feel like I’m not getting the full experience of a college education,” Woo said. “I’m willing to stick with it, though, because I am still able to learn a lot, and that’s all that matters to me right now.”
Jiménez-Sandoval said a survey was conducted through the Office of Institutional Effectiveness about student experiences with online learning and said plenty of students found the fall semester challenging online.
“Students are struggling, though, with 84% agreeing that it is difficult to stay motivated for their classes and 84% agreeing that they are not able to concentrate as well as usual,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “We shared these results with the deans and all of the department chairs — all with the intention of letting faculty know where our students were struggling.”
Patricia Ariola, a second-year pre-nursing student, chose to enroll to remain on track for graduation, but she expressed these struggles in her online courses.
“I do not regret enrolling this semester though it did prove to be difficult. This transition provided me more time for work and a chance to manage my time better,” Ariola said.
With the pandemic’s hardships and the responsibilities that came about through remote learning, Jiménez-Sandoval expressed his gratitude to Fresno State students who chose to enroll this fall.
“One thing we admire greatly in our students is their resilience throughout the challenges that this year has presented,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.
With the Spring 2020 semester limiting in-person classes and most classes remaining online, many students are still planning on enrolling.
Cox said that, although remaining online was not the spring semester she was hoping for, she remains optimistic and hopes for the best.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sad that classes are going to remain online next semester. Like I’ve mentioned, I do prefer in-person classes,” Cox said. “However, with the pandemic, I think it is important that we continue with online classes until it is safe for students and faculty to return to campus.”