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COVID-19: The College Course I Didn’t Plan on Taking

Megan Sullivan Co-Op, Customer Marketing Published 10 Apr 2020

Being a college student has never been more challenging. The global COVID-19 virus is reorienting the education world, and the way we live out our daily routines. Colleges and Universities across the country have had to make swift moves to protect the health of their campus communities by switching to online education.

As a customer success marketing intern at Extreme Networks and junior at the University of Massachusetts LowellI’ve experienced rapid changes within both my internship and education. As a mostly online student, I decided to take an internship at Extreme Networks in Salem, New Hampshire reporting to the office three days a week. My weekly routine of driving to the office and even aspects of my schoolwork drastically changed when UMass Lowell decided to eliminate all in-person events while continuing with online-only education for the remainder of the semester.

Since I was already a mostly online student most of my classes have remained the same, but the teaching approach is different, and changing to online only is not as easy and seamless as it may seem. Many of my college professors have previously participated in online learning, but others have not. Instructors that have always taught in a more traditional way have had difficulties moving their in-person course entirely online. For students who are used to oncampus courses, this transition is a challenge. There’s a structure inherent to campus-based learning, a pattern that keeps students connected with the academic community. As for me, I have been able to easily adapt to the virtual environment, because I have taken online courses such as interpersonal communications, social media marketing, and finance. But my classmates who have never experienced online learning are struggling. Digital tools are assisting and UMass had Blackboard an online learning management system, Zoom video conferencing, and messaging platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack all in place before the change, which has helped the online-only adaption and ensured that we can access course material and communicate with professors.

My fellow co-ops shared with me that their colleges Endicott College and Saint Anselm College have had their senior activities similarly canceled and their commencements have been postponed indefinitely.

Switching my internship to virtually working has been the biggest adjustment. Extreme Networks being my first corporate role, I worked three days a week in the office and then Friday from home. During my summer and winter break, I worked full-time in the office environment; I had my own cube, and access tools and technologies just as a full-time employee. I participated in team meetings, customer meetings, and working in groups with the other co-ops. Now that we are all virtual, it has been an adjustment. Contacting employees and customers is more difficult. Talking to my co-op manager only via Zoom is a challenge and not being able to ask quick questions in person makes things slightly more difficult.

As we now venture into the world of virtual learning and working, one thing that is critical is reliable Wi-Fi and a strong internet connection as well as the use of digital tools to stay connected. In the coming weeks, our educators and employers will rally around their responsibilities as teaching and developing innovative solutions to the abrupt challenges the pandemic has created.

Looking ahead, when the fall semester approaches and it’s time to head back to college, the UMass campus, like universities all over, will need to be prepared. There will be a lot of provisions to make in preparing for thousands of students to return to campus. In my role as a customer success intern at Extreme Networks, I understand the importance of a powerful network in the higher education community. It is essential that all higher education facilities have their network ready, one that is secure and flexible, fast and efficient with the high level of traffic returning to campus. After a chaotic spring semester, it will be critical for schools to get back to their regular routine and empower students and faculty as well. 

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