Students fear lack of experience in switch to online learning


Illustration by Brian Winters.

On March 13, the College of Education and Human Sciences announced the possibility of practicums and student teachers not being able to meet anymore due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The announcement added that practicum and field placements are now fully at the discretion of the host district.

Alison McIntyre is a senior social work major who visits hospitals and similar facilities for class.

“It is difficult to understand what is expected of us,” McIntyre said. “We were told to continue going to our placements, but if our placements told us we could not go, that we should talk with our supervisors about what to do.”

McIntyre said having online classes instead of placements doesn’t make sense. 

“We can write papers at home, but many of us deal with classified documents that cannot be accessed at home,” McIntyre said. “We will not be learning the same at home.”

Brandi Bond, a senior elementary education and special education major, agrees with McIntyre. 

“Other classes earlier in the degree program could make the transition [to online, but not field placements],” Bond said. “Since teaching is a career that relies so heavily on the experience you get in the field, it would put future teachers at an extreme disadvantage.”

If she could make an executive decision, Bond said she would give emergency licenses to all Mississippi education majors so long as they have passed all required tests, and discontinue student teaching for the semester. 

“Realistically, we could do the remainder of the work in our classroom beginning in August,” Bond said. “Completion of the work would change the state of the license from emergency to permanent.” 

Mississippi governor Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency on March 14 which asked for all Mississippi schools to stay closed for at least a week. Bond said the closure of schools until March 27 would affect all student teachers statewide. 

“With so many schools not going back until March 27 at the earliest, there’s no way we can do the program as originally planned,” Bond said. “Because it is impossible to do an internship like this online, everyone in the education department is on edge waiting to see what happens.”

Elizabeth Knowles, a senior forensic science major, said she found out on March 11 that her internship was canceled. Instead, Southern Miss told her class they would be getting an alternative assignment.

“If you are not going to force us to do field study later, just give us the credits so we can move on,” Knowles said. “We have already done the book study.”

Still, Knowles said she does not expect a solution right away.

McIntyre said she understands it is not The School of Social Work’s fault that practicums and field study are being canceled.

“They have sent many emails giving precautions to students and are some of the most caring faculty and staff,” McIntyre said. “This virus will hopefully not affect our campus, nor its people, and I pray for those affected a speedy recovery.”