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For FAMU Students and Professors Navigating Classes Amid COVID Comes With A Learning Curve

A woman in an orange shirt holds dorm supplies including a tan shag run. She is wearing a blue doctors mask.
Florida A&M University's Facebook page
Students donned masks for FAMU's move-in day. It's one of the many things signaling life on campus is different amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been nearly a month since classes started at Florida A&M University and this year, things are looking a little different. As part of an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, the majority of FAMU’s classes have been moved online. And that’s required some adjustment from students and staff.

One change is a new academic system that students use to connect with their professors. Instead of Blackboard, the program is now called Canvas.

“Learning how to get acquainted with Canvas left me very confused because I’m so used to Blackboard,” says Destyni Govan, a senior psychology student at FAMU. “So far things are starting to get a little better because teachers are getting equipped to Canvas as well.

As a senior, Govan says taking remote classes is a big change for her, but she’d rather attend classes online than in-person. She says she feels safer at home because she worries any of her classmates could be contagious. It’s a real concern. The majority of Leon County’s new coronavirus cases stem from college-aged people, and health officials say a person can be contagious without showing any symptoms. But for now, FAMU’s reported cases are relatively low. A coronavirus dashboard maintained by the university shows so far a combined total of 63 students and employees have tested positive.

For Summia Little, a first-year criminal justice student at FAMU, adjusting to classes during the pandemic has been a little easier. As a freshman everything is already new. She says she is just glad to be able to get an education.

“I think my classes went well… [My] professors are very nice and understanding,” Little says.

Little says she thinks it has been easy to attend class from her computer so far. University officials say about 85% of the school’s classes are offered online. But there are a few that require in-person learning. Kenneth Jones, a professor at FAMU in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, is teaching all his classes in-person.

“As an educator for 25 years, I just enjoy teaching,” says Jones. “I enjoy imparting information, sharing and inspiring through knowledge.”

Jones teaches journalism classes that he says involve hands on work that would be difficult to teach online. But he says he and his students all make safety a priority—from social distancing, to wearing masks, and even putting up shields to stay protected from the virus. And, Jones says it’s important to remember, those changes aren’t forever.

“The University has done a great job of making sure there is safety for the students, faculty, and staff,” says Jones. “We’re doing this now because of COVID-19 but this too shall pass.”

Sha’Tara Simmons is a journalism student at Florida A&M University.