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Midterms are here and while classes might look different, there's still plenty of ways to prepare for the busy week.

After months of online-only classes, Illinois State University students will finally be able to see one another again in the coming fall semester.

However, things won’t be completely back to normal in Normal. Earlier this month, ISU President Larry Dietz announced the campus will be open for the fall 2020 semester.

“My initial reaction to the [announcement] was surprised,” senior television production major Viktoria Figueroa said. “I did not think we would be back in face-to-face or hybrid classes. I thought we would stay online since there are huge lecture halls with tons of students.”

The Redbirds Return progress report stated that courses will be taught in a combination of face-to-face courses, hybrid courses with both face-to-face and remote learning and online only courses.

“I’ve taken a couple of [hybrid] classes before and I really did not feel like the learning experience was the same at all, so it makes me a little nervous about the upcoming semester,” senior special education major Kyle Mlynarczyk said. “It also feels a lot less personal when you aren’t in class with your peers and teacher.”

Students voiced their concern with continuing in an online learning environment, however, some also mentioned they were hopeful due to the experiences in the spring semester.

The switch to online classes during the spring semester was on a very short notice. However, now professors will be able to prepare their class in whatever format it will be taught, whether that is online, hybrid or in person.

“I am optimistic to see how my classes are improved from last semester as our professors are being given a heads up this time around,” Mlynarczyk said.

The switch from face-to-face classes to online only was a difficult but necessary transition to make.

Figueroa adds that online classes changed how she studied, and she shows concern going into online courses again.

“I feel I do not study as much since it’s online and I have the internet for answers. I don’t think I learn as much in online classes,” Figueroa said.

Courses won’t be taught the same as in the spring, and with different ways for classes to be instructed, it can benefit those who may struggle in an online-only setting.

“I think it’s also really helpful for students who may learn better in-person to have that opportunity as well,” senior English education major Alisa Christensen said.

Throughout the summer, more of the logistics on the return to campus will be announced.

But some classes have more hurdles to jump through when it comes to transitioning to the new normal. Christensen and Mlynarczyk both mentioned that their main area of concern revolves around student teaching in the fall.

“This upcoming semester, I am supposed to be teaching in a classroom for four days a week but have gotten no news as to if this is still going to happen or not,” Mlynarczyk said.

Christensen also voiced concern for student teaching within the new circumstances, such as wearing a mask in class.

“While I am completely fine with and willing to wear a mask, I worry about how it may impede communication,” Christensen said.

“I currently work with kids at a summer learning center where we all wear masks at all times, and it can be a bit difficult to hear and understand what others are saying while wearing masks.

“Although hybrid and online classes may be the norm now, I want to have at least a bit more in-person experience prior to looking for a full-time teaching position,” she added.

Christensen continues, saying that she remains hopeful for the semester to come, as the spring semester, “greatest challenge I encountered in college, but I’m happy to say that I pushed myself and came away from the semester with not just new content knowledge but also knowledge on how to organize my schedule and motivate myself to work.

“Having classes online will definitely be a challenge in the upcoming semester, but hopefully it will cause teachers and students to become more flexible in the way they teach and learn,” Mlynarczyk said. “I am both extremely excited and anxious to see how this semester will play out.”

ANDREA RICKER is Features Editor The Vidette. She can be contacted at Follower her on Twitter at @ricker_andrea    

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