The Great COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 has turned the world into one of social isolation and online working and studying.
Like schools of all levels across the country, Cumberland University’s campus is closed to the general public with classes and other events canceled for the remainder of the semester.
But learning must go on.
Cumberland is in the second week of online instruction. Teachers took a day during spring break a couple of weeks ago for a crash course in the technology needed for this virtual new world and have implemented it since last Monday.
“I think it’s been going as well as can be expected,” university President Paul Stumb saidn. “What we had to do, pretty quickly, was pull our faculty on board … bring them up to speed quickly.”
Stumb said some of the teachers more experienced with the technology, usually the younger ones, have been helping the less experienced catch on.
Students will log in, either at specific class times where roll is checked, or at their leisure. But one student said it’s wise to check in often.
“I have to look at it a couple of times a day — double-check, triple-check-type of deal,” said junior business management major Jordan Burdette, who has been sequestered at home in Lawrenceburg. “Being in person and having (teachers) there to talk things out … having to teach myself some things.
“Dr. (Mary Lewis) Haley (his Accounting II teacher) has done a great job. She’s adjusted pretty well for us, getting us some resources.
“The only thing that gets overwhelming is I may get 10 notifications for assignments. It may look like a lot until I read over them,” he said. “This is my fourth year of college. I’ve been online, but not altogether. But if you don’t keep up with it everyday, you can get behind.”
Burdette is a pitcher on the baseball team, as is fellow junior Matt Risko, a sports management major.
“You still get the assignments,” Risko said. “Some of the stuff’s a little difficult because you don’t have all the information you’d get in the classroom. But I have the textbook, for one class, and the others do a pretty good job of putting the information out there. Some of the teachers are better at this than the others.”
Like Burdette, Risko said the key is to stay on top of things.
“Do the assignment that’s due that day and get it done by the end of the day,” Risko said.
An aspect of today’s virtual learning is a computer isn’t actually required.
“The beauty of it is, you can do all of this — they don’t have to have a computer — they can do it with their phones,” said Stumb, whose school has 2,600 students enrolled this semester. “We don’t have any student who doesn’t have a phone. A few may not have a computer, but everyone has a phone.
“If there was a case where students didn’t have a phone, the campus is still open. The library is still open (to students, not the public).”
While some universities completely closed their campuses and evicted students from the dormitories when the virus began hitting the country in earnest, Cumberland did not.
“About 90% of our students went home,” Stumb said. “But we have 242 students, as of (Monday) — a few more go home each day — who have told us they’re not going home. They are staying.
“These are students who are from foreign countries, and there are those from places like California and even Davidson and Williamson counties where the disease is a lot more prevalent. They’ve chosen not to leave a place like Lebanon and Wilson County, where the disease is not so prevalent, to go to a place where it is so prevalent.”
Risko, a San Jose, Calif., native, is one of those staying in the Lebanon off-campus apartment he shares with three roommates. Two of them have gone home while the other was expected back from visiting his girlfriend.
“San Jose’s kind of a mess right now with everything going on,” Risko said. “I thought about going home, but I’d have to drive myself (a 2,291-mile trip which would take 34 hours of solid driving time, according to Google Maps) and with everything I thought I’d be safer here.”
Stumb said some students believe they might put their loved ones, aging grandparents as an example, more at risk by going home, so they chose to stay.
“That’s a smart thing to do, and we encourage that,” Stumb said, noting that other colleges and universities have shuttered their entire campuses. “We think that’s a bad idea.”
Though there are no classes meeting physically, dorms remain open and the services needed to meet their needs, such as the cafeteria and library, are still available to them, though not to the public as they normally are. Students are told not to sit together as the school tries to follow the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control.
“We’re doing our best to comply with the guidelines the CDC has set,” Stumb said. “But we’ve got to feed the students.”
Students still face some temptations, like sleeping in and blowing off the 8 a.m. class, especially now when there may not be any fellow students around to apply some peer pressure.
“It requires some discipline and some maturity, and we’re concerned about that,” Stumb said. “We can’t call roll and see people eyeball to eyeball. But we still monitor them.”
With baseball, along with all athletics and extracurricular activities, canceled for the spring, academics, even online, is one of the few things on the to-do list these days.
“There’s not a whole lot else going on right now,” Risko said. “Sleep, watch TV, play some video games a little bit. Getting a little stir crazy.”
Like most of society, Risko would prefer the old way of doing things.
“If all this weren’t happening, I’d prefer to be on campus because it gives you more of a structured day,” he said. “But with all that is happening, I’d prefer the online classes.”