Bay Area students torn over 'Zoom U' as universities restart with online instruction

Zoom fatigue, large sporting events in question, no college parties and the looming question: "Is it worth it?"
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Zoom fatigue, large sporting events in question, no college parties and the looming question: "Is it worth it?"

Bay Area College students are gearing up for a second semester of learning online and are torn over what to expect from the experience.

RELATED: 'Adaptability' is key as San Jose State starts fall semester with online instruction

In May, the California State University system became the first large public university system in the country to announce classes would be delivered primarily online for the Fall 2020 semester-all but shuttering the 23 campuses.

Weeks later the nine University of California campuses would make similar announcements - Only a limited number of classes (mainly labs and some arts classes) would be offered in-person for the start of the new academic year.

In late February and early March, as the number of coronavirus cases began to surge across the Bay Area, practically all colleges and universities canceled in-person classes, suspended sports and clubs, and sent most students out of the dorms and back home.

ABC7 News Reporter Julian Glover spoke to three Bay Area students to get their take on starting the new school semester how the last semester ended, with virtual instruction.

"A lot of people don't have spaces to study, or have designated areas for their class. Living at home your family is there, your siblings are everywhere," said 19-year-old Jocelyn Garcia.

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Garcia will be a sophomore at San Francisco State University when the new term starts in a matter of weeks.

She's been learning online since SF State closed to students in March, but lagging internet issues at home has made following lectures tough. Garcia said it has been so challenging, she's considered taking a gap year, but opted not to so she can stay on target for med school.

"I can't take this semester off because I'm going to be set back in my units and my track," she said.

As students gear up for another term, some are questioning how much of the material is actually sticking with them from video conference lectures.

"A lot of students don't really do well with online learning," said 23-year-old Jasmine Jow.

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Jow is a graduate student at Cal State East Bay who also has med school in her future. CSUEB announced the majority of graduate classes will be held online in the fall.

"It's just not the same level of understanding and comprehension as being in an academic environment," Jow said.

And that has many college students taking a deeper look at the cost of their education.

Garcia depended on a work study program where she tutored after school to help pay for part of tuition. She said she has not been notified if they program will continue in the fall. Now she's left footing an even larger portion of the cost of attendance bill.

Garcia even started an online petition, with nearly one-thousand signatures, to pressure SF State into lowering tuition to no avail.

Most universities have been steadfast about keeping the cost of attendance the same even for virtual instruction.

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Students at elite universities like Stanford are also concerned about costs.

"Hav(ing) a backup plan for a national eviction crisis is pretty hard, even for someone who goes to Stanford," said Linda Denson, Stanford Class of 2023.

Denson is one of the university's First Generation Low Income (FLI) students on full financial aid.

Stanford has announced plans to allow a limited number of freshmen and sophomore students to live on campus in the fall. Denson is worried about coming up with the money to make it back home to New Orleans if there's a COVID-19 outbreak that forces her off campus.

She also is worried about missing a sense of community with a limited number of students on campus and virtual classes.

RELATED: Bay Area schools work to bridge digital divide as new school year begins amid coronavirus crisis

"It's ideal that we have some sense of community, especially for people who do deal with impostor syndrome or are kind of like the 'others' of their group," she said.

"I think a lot of people, including myself-in school we build a lot of our relationships and there's a lot of social and emotional development that goes on that's lacking with online classes," said Jow.

As Jow enters her final two semester of graduate school she's trying to stay positive even as she accepts that she may just get her master's degree without every showing up to a class in person again.

"With everything going on right now it motivates me to just do better," Jow said, "the goal is to face situations like this with confidence."

Denson, who still has three years of undergraduate studies ahead of her, whether that's in-person or online, is holding on to hope.

"I just hope I don't regret anything," she said. "I would just hope that above all else I prioritize my own fulfillment."

And there's no lesson plan for that.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.



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