When COVID-19 arrived in Florida last March, the University of Florida’s deep expertise in online learning allowed the university to quickly pivot. From music and math to agriculture and journalism, professors found creative ways to teach their classes online, while still providing the world-class education students expect from UF.
The campus community rallied behind continuing their education through the pandemic. Aided by face coverings, physical distancing and other safety measures developed by the university under the guidance of UF Health, many students remained on campus, while others were able to successfully return by the fall semester.
“A big part of our role as faculty members is not just to mentor students but emotionally provide them with that support that says, ‘We've got your back.’ In this time of COVID, that relationship is incredibly beneficial to their mental well-being, emotional intelligence and resilience,” said Karen Reed, MSN, DHSc, RN, CNE, CNL, CRRN, a clinical assistant professor of nursing.
Although COVID-19 clearly posed many challenges, students adapted. Sororities and fraternities conducted recruitment by Zoom. Student residents baked cookies in residence hall kitchens while wearing masks. Others found virtual platforms for their chess club games. Students wearing masks still tabled for their organizations at Turlington Plaza.
“I feel like there’s a good balance of in-person and virtual activities,” said freshman Mary Serviss. “I’m really proud of UF for being able to give us a really good experience and keeping things safe.”
“A big part of our role as faculty members is not just to mentor students but emotionally provide them with that support that says, ‘We've got your back.’ In this time of COVID, that relationship is incredibly beneficial to their mental well-being, emotional intelligence and resilience.”
As January approached, faculty and staff began preparing for an expanded on-campus experience. Guided by the experts at UF Health, the university aimed to offer roughly the same number of in-person sections during spring 2021 as it did in spring 2020, using HyFlex technology to ensure the best possible education across class formats.
Meanwhile, UF received national recognition by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a study that highlighted how UF led the way with indoor mask compliance. Not only were UF students more than willing to do their parts by wearing masks indoors, the CDC reported 95% of those who wore one did so correctly.
By the start of the spring semester, campus life began to feel a bit more normal, and students like Gabriella Ginsburg were delighted to attend fewer virtual classes.
“I think I learn better in an in-person environment,” Ginsburg said. “I’m definitely more excited to have more in-person things in general.”