Even though SCTCC’s classrooms are empty and social distancing is a way of life, a small group of students comes to campus every day to complete their schoolwork, appropriately distanced, of course. A few set up their laptops in the Commons and attend class via Zoom or do homework, take tests. The Commons is dark, but the students like it that way.
The SCTCC campus has always been open during the week for students who need to access the printer or need wi-fi access. The open hours may be a bit shorter and only one door open (Door 1), but students who need the space are always welcome.
Simon Pountougnigni claims a space on the second floor above the Main Entrance, where the large windows pour light in the open concept area and metal circles hang from the ceiling on wiring. He sits just down the hall from where his classrooms are, if he were still in his face-to-face classes for the Cyber Security program.
“We have a lab in networking, with the items you work on,” Simon explains. “The routers, the switching. Now we solve the same problems in the netlab, which is an online environment. It’s not really the same as working in the class. There are some differences.”
This is something quite a few students have had to manage since classes went entirely online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Simon has been hopeful about his classes.
“It’s working – everyone has to put in some effort to make it work, the students as well as the instructors,” he said. “Every day is a challenge, but it’s far better than losing the semester.” Simon is set to graduate in December of 2021. “There are certain things when you are working out of the classroom that you are challenged to do yourself. No one’s going to do it for you.”
Even though it’s been a challenge, Simon has found structure in coming to campus. The internet connection at his home is slow, so he comes to SCTCC to use the internet and also to work with no distractions. “Working from home is not the same as working in the school environment, especially with things that are difficult to understand.”
He’s found that keeping the 6’ social distancing rule is easy at SCTCC, and he views being on campus as keeping in line with the Stay at Home order. When you walk into SCTCC, you need to check in on a sheet of paper, and hand sanitizer and wipes are available to wipe down the area after you’ve finished. Very few people are on campus now, so keeping social distance has not been a problem.
Simon gives a lot of credit to his instructors, which is true across all classes that have had to go online. He explains how cyber security and networking is a very technical program and much of the work is done in the lab with the physical environment. In the same sentence, he brings up how his instructors have stepped up.
“My instructors are doing the best they can to make sure we have a close enough setting to what they were doing in class. It was a lot of hands-on, but you have to deal with what you have.”
As far as how he’s been responding to the pandemic as a whole, he’s trying to see what the message is behind all this. “Now it’s like no person is safe, no nation is safe. Everyone is affected. You think, is it worth it to put in all the effort every day because you never know what is going to happen?” Simon thinks it definitely is. “If you are not doing anything, you are already dead. ‘I want to achieve this, I want to achieve this’ - that’s what makes life.”
Life may be a little different now, but the achievements will continue – for Simon and the SCTCC community.