VCU students lack necessary software, worry about self-discipline ahead of move to online classes

VCUarts student Noelle Hepworth's workspace at home. The communication arts student is worried about access to 3D modeling software and new technology. Photo courtesy of Noelle Hepworth

Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer

Hours away from Richmond at their Tennessee home, junior communication arts student Noelle Hepworth is worried they won’t be able to finish some of their most important projects.

“I’m primarily worried about my 3D modeling class,” Hepworth said. “When I’m at school in the computer labs, I have access to a lot of software. Now that I’m home I feel like I might not be able to keep up with the coursework, especially since I have a pretty old laptop.”

Hepworth said they won’t be able to turn in their final comics project physically, unless they want to make an 18 hour trip to VCU and back. 

Keep on Teaching, a resource site for instructors moving their courses online, notes that some learning opportunities won’t be available at students’ homes. VCUarts spokesperson Suzanne Silitch said classes will be reworked to focus on the core learning objectives rather than trying to replicate them remotely. She told The Commonwealth Times earlier this week that a survey was being conducted to assess technology needs. 

People across the country are being told to work, learn and meet from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools and universities have been switching to online or distance learning, and VCU is no exception. Classes will be held online for the rest of the semester. 

Many students have gone home to their families, but international students who filled out an emergency petition remain on campus. Students who would otherwise be homeless also qualified.

“For some classes, I’m sure I’ll be fine,” said sophomore biology major Isaiah Hicks. “Classes that were taught from slides or lectures moving online wouldn’t be much of a detriment.”

In other classes, such as genetics and writing poetry, he says he learns better in person.

Hicks’ family lives in Dinwiddie, Virginia, but he is staying in an off-campus apartment in Richmond with one of his three roommates.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order this week prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people, save for spaces like grocery stores and pharmacies, and gave police the ability to enforce this limit.

Sophomore Francesca Ott-McKay said the disruption in routine has made her concerned for her mental health.

“I’m not too worried about spending time inside because I like being a homebody, but I am worried about how well I’ll be able to manage my workload,” – Francesca Ott-McKay, psychology major.

McKay, who lives in Richmond, is social distancing with her two roommates.

“I don’t feel any real anxiety about having to practice social distancing with my other friends, because my roommates and I are so close,” McKay said. 

Health, physical education and exercise science major Tara Swamy is staying at her Ashburn home with her parents and older sister during the coronavirus pandemic. Her main fear, she says, is that she won’t have the self-discipline to keep herself on task when working from home.

“Being at home right now and having to do work makes me feel like I’m back in high school, and I can’t really get work done at home anymore,” the sophomore said. “Even when I’m on campus, I’m always at the library to do work.”

Virginia governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency in Virginia due to COVID-19, and 152 people have tested positive for the virus in the state so far. Due to the shortage of tests, the real number of people who have COVID-19 is likely higher.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest social distancing guidelines prohibit gatherings of 10 or more people for at least 8 weeks. Many schools, universities and workplaces have closed their doors and moved to distance learning or teleworking to combat the spread of the virus. 

Visit for updates from VCU on the COVID-19 outbreak.

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