Credit: Jackie Espitia | Mustang News

Backpack? Check. Notebooks for class? Check. A nearby outlet in a quiet location? That one is a little harder to attain.

That last checklist item is proving to be the most coveted for students that are having to take online classes on campus since they are scheduled either right before, right after or in the middle of students’ in-person courses.

Cal Poly is currently transitioning back to in-person classes. According to a recent email sent to Mustang News from Cal Poly Spokesperson Matt Lazier, 83.6% of classes are being offered fully in person.

After over a year of exclusively online instruction, students and professors alike are exploring a new normal and many are having to adapt to the possibility of having a hybrid schedule of in-person and virtual classes, such as environmental management and protection senior Lauren Peachey. 

When Peachey steps on the bus at 9:02 a.m. every Thursday, she said she knows she is in for a long day. Her online lab, Plants, People and Civilization (BOT 311), is sandwiched between two in-person courses, so she is not able to make it home in time to attend her virtual class. 

“It’s definitely not ideal,” Peachey said. “I get by, so it’s not too bad because I have headphones and stuff but it is pretty crowded in the library.” 

Peachey’s schedule means that in the middle of her school day, she is sent scouting out the most ideal, “undistracting” place to take her online class so she can still hear her professor and be an active participant, she said. For Peachey, that place requires quiet, an outlet she can plug her computer into and a table so she can take notes.

“The biggest struggle is trying to find a place to do that, because you can try to do it outside, but it’s really loud,” Peachey said. 

With how many students are experiencing this challenge, Peachey said she feels that Cal Poly should have been more prepared to aid students with this transition. 

“There should have been a little bit more communication, at least to the students who are setting up for this year back at Cal Poly in person and now have to navigate a hybrid system of learning,” Peachey said. 

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Video by Kiana Hunziker

Initially, when Peachey signed up for her classes she was under the impression that all of them would be in person. 

“It’s listed as an in-person lab on my schedule and it’s only some labs that are virtual, because, other labs, we go on field trips,” Peachey said. “Obviously that’s in person, but I didn’t know that the regular discussion portions of the lab would be virtual until school started.”

To try and ease the transition, Cal Poly has study spots and has been implementing measures to ensure that students can take online classes on campus, according to Lazier.

“Academic Affairs is actively discussing the issue as part of its ongoing planning and response around the pandemic and its effects on classroom and laboratory learning on campus,” Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News.

Over the last 18 months, Cal Poly’s Information Technology Services (ITS) has expanded and improved the strength of the campus WiFi outdoors and created a map of the campus that shows where strong WiFi signals can be found, Lazier wrote.

In addition to the university making plans to help students in the hybrid situation, certain professors are taking it upon themselves to be accommodating to students they know are struggling. 

Peachey’s professor for her in-person class after her online lab allows her class a couple of extra minutes to file in and they usually end up starting around 3:15-3:20 p.m.

While Peachey said she is appreciative that her professor is doing this, she doesn’t feel like they should have to.

“It kind of almost feels unfair that it cuts into that class time, because you know we only get an hour and a half on Tuesdays and Thursdays to go over the lecture material,” Peachey said. 

Political science senior Brian Kragh, who is also balancing a hybrid schedule, said that he has noticed more students having to take virtual classes all over campus. 

“I enter from the South side and then I go into yakʔitʸutʸu and ultimately there will be someone on their computer taking a class. Then I go over to the UU Plaza and there’s definitely someone taking their class there. Right by Dexter, there are tables there and people are taking their class,” Kragh said.

He said that there aren’t enough tables for classes, but overall believes there is enough space for students to take classes around campus. 

“There’s a bunch of couches, seats all over the buildings here and you also have the lawn, like Dexter lawn,” Kragh said. “So, I think if you can get a bit creative, there’s definitely plenty of space you can utilize.”

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