Social Distancing Promoted through Online Education at Island University

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – On Monday, March 23, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi implemented its transition of the lecture portion of classes to fully online for each of its six academic colleges, minimizing if not fully eliminating face-to-face contact between students and faculty. This, after an extended spring break period so faculty, staff, and administrators could best prepare to take courses online.

In this time of great uncertainty, administrators made the decision for the benefit of all Islanders in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, a contagious respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, which poses a serious public health risk according to the CDC. Since the initial switch-over, the University has transitioned all courses (including labs and clinicals) online, due to the recent Nueces County Order to Stay at Home.

“While this situation was unprecedented, I’m proud to say the University was already focusing on the importance of digital information literacy,” said Dr. Michelle Singh, Associate Vice President of Teaching & Learning Technologies at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “We understand that for our students, everything is changing as of this moment. We want them to take this opportunity to push away from the fears and anxieties of online education and focus on how this builds their tools for their future – they are not alone in this transition we are always here to help.”

The University has come together and built strong resources for students and faculty including the creation of virtual Digital Resource Centers with on-demand training videos, how to documents, and FAQs. In addition, student services are available online to continue to foster student success and provide support during the University’s digital transformation. The Anytime, Anywhere Access initiative is designed to support an environment where the university community can perform work, access resources, teach, learn, and conduct research regardless of location or device.

For college students, who are social by nature, social distancing – which at current, limits gatherings to 10 people or less and encourages a six-foot perimeter between individuals – can be  difficult to understand and at times overwhelming to practice, but the Center for Disease Control states “community mitigation is especially important before a vaccine or drug becomes widely available,” when a novel virus such as COVID-19 reaches the pandemic stage.

“COVID-19 is occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population,” said Dr. Bunny Forgione, Interim Dean in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at A&M-Corpus Christi “Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others. Ultimately, social distancing will protect our entire community.”

As Islander students, faculty, and staff continue the spring semester separated physically from each other, officials from the CDC say it’s not uncommon for those practicing social distancing to begin dealing with concerns such as anxiety, fear, and stress. To help manage these feelings students can consider the following tips:

  • Take Care of Your Body
    Try to eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and other drugs
  • Connect (while observing social distancing)
    Share your feelings with a friend or family member
    Maintain relationships and rely on your support system
  • Take Breaks
    Make time to unwind
    Try to return to activities that you enjoy
  • Stay Informed
    Watch for news updates from reliable officials
  • Avoid
    Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of the event.

While social distancing can take a toll on one’s mental health, A&M-Corpus Christi encourages Islanders to remember they are not alone.

“Throughout this event, TAMU-CC has sought to maintain regular updates for our faculty staff, and students,” said Forgione. “We want all of our students to know we remain available by email, text, and telephone to address any questions or concerns they might have.”

Due to the Nueces County Order to Stay at Home, the University Counseling Center is only providing services by phone and video conference. Students can call 361.825.2703 during regular business hours, or after-hours or on weekends, to request a phone consult with a counselor.