Villanova’s Handling of Online Classes Has Been Fantastic

“Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” This is a statement that a former teacher of mine always said before a test. The University faces a huge test this semester by operating on campus despite the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the world. It seems, so far, that the University is living up to its name as an academically prestigious university. Through its preparation and commitment to community, this plan has unfolded smoothly.

March 13 is a day we will never forget. Many of us thought we would be back on campus after Easter, but after a few weeks, it became official. The rest of our college year would be cut to an abrupt end, especially for the seniors.

There is, however, a bright spot that shined through the grim outlook reported on news networks, and that is the University’s commitment to a world-class education. When I left my last class of my freshman year, I figured classes on Zoom would be a disaster. I was wrong.  

All of my professors worked diligently to give us the best experience possible. They eased into sharing screens, utilizing breakout rooms and encouraging us to use the raise hand feature to cement our participation. They kept the classes live so we could follow our normal weekly routine, though, trust me, it was just as hard getting up for the 8:30 a.m. class.  An especially inspiring story came from my Theology professor, Dr. Paul Danove, who is mostly blind. Through two computers, one showing students and the other showing his lecture notes, he was able to give us quality lectures on the Gospels.

Obviously, not all of the operations were perfect. I experienced a couple of moments when I could not hear my professor or when the audio was choppy. The quality of the quizzes and tests were impacted significantly; some classes allowed students to use notes and textbooks while others may not have, creating a difference in difficulty throughout otherwise similar classes.

On June 23, University President Peter M. Donohue, PhD, O.S.A., announced we would be coming back to campus in-person for the fall semester. While he discussed many categories of the plan, the most important sentence was that we would be back in the fall.  This was imperative to everyone involved in this community because we would be able to experience our semester together. 

The handling of classes and adjusting to schedules has been nothing short of outstanding. All classes have been moved to areas where larger spaces are available. All classes include spread-out desks to maintain social distancing and wearing masks to ensure the limiting of the COVID-19 spread.  Schedules were adjusted for 20 minutes in between classes so students can clean their areas and maintain distance when going to class.  Everyone is encouraged to use hand sanitizer or wipes to keep their space clean for themselves and others.

There is much credit to go around as this plan has unfolded almost as cleanly as the sanitizer makes our hands.  The summer to prepare enhanced Villanova’s reputation as one of the greatest schools in the county and is the reason I love being a Villanovan.  The amount of effort they put into our return to campus is evident including the spaced-out lines at the dining halls and plexiglass at tables to limit the spread.  The students, for the most part, have taken this commitment seriously by wearing masks and preventing large gatherings.  If students have thrown parties or refused to wear masks, they have been punished severely.

The University always commits itself to the highest standards.  This article may seem like I am praising the school I attend, and I am, but more so because of how shocked I am at how well this plan has worked.  My education has not skipped a beat, as many institutions have seen a decline in instruction in online learning.  Online classes here have their downsides with technical gaffs, but professors have worked extremely hard to give us all the content we would have had in person.