Between Forrest County and Jones County, there are nearly 30,000 students attending four different colleges. Through March and into April, these schools implemented many changes to slow the spread of COVID-19, which included switching to online classes, restricting the hours that campus services are open and even closing the campus entirely.
Each teacher is in charge of how they will deliver course content and receive assignments. While many professors are utilizing Canvas to post pre-recorded lectures and assignments, some are simply using email. Others are hosting live classes on video conferencing software such as Zoom, Skype, Yuja or Microsoft Teams. Advisors have also switched to purely online methods to help students choose what classes they will take in the coming semesters.
Some degrees, however, require in-person assignments that can no longer occur. Performance art majors, such as music performance and theatre students, are particularly hindered. Southern Miss student Guillermo del Prado, a junior music performance major, voiced his concerns about instructors used to physical classes, as well as restricted campus usage.
“Most teachers are not even familiarized with Canvas to begin with,” del Prado said. “The closure of the school has made it a big problem to all students who require a practice space within the facilities.”
Students who do not have access to specific equipment were not sure how they would complete certain classes. Jones College sophomore art major Grayson Burge does not own a kiln, nor is he able to use the one on campus anymore.
“All of [my classes] are online, including ceramics, which is the least online-friendly class anyone can take,” Burge said. “As an art major my classes are basically the same except for ceramics II. It is impossible to finish that class now.”
Pearl River Community College sophomore Chandler Carr said he has also had disruptions to his schedule.
“I am currently in a personal and community health lab only class, and our requirements were to workout at the gym for a period of time. I would normally go to the YMCA and work out for this class, however, that is no longer an option,” Carr said.
Beyond online classes, each college has to choose which services to keep open and which to have solely online. No truly unified decision has been made so far on how a school should operate under a world health threat of this significance. All four schools in the Hattiesburg area have released official statements regarding the pandemic and continue to update their policy changes online.
Overall, though, these schools are handling things in a similar way, with a few key differences. Southern Miss has left some services open, like the Moffitt Health Center, but has closed off its campus publically. Jones College also completely closed its campus to the public, instructing residential students to leave the dorms. William Carey, however, has allowed international students and residential students with the Housing Department approval to remain living on campus.
For more information on how each school is trying to protect its students, faculty and staff, visit the Southern Miss, PRCC, JCJC, and William Carey coronavirus response pages.