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Virtual learning due to COVID-19 helps UMKC student with disability

Erin Gibson lives with a disability called osteogenesis imperfecta that causes her bones to break easily as well as being immunocompromised.

A history major at UMKC, Gibson said she has benefited greatly from the school’s shift to virtual learning since the start of the pandemic. Her college experience was already online as she was unable to attend classes, and the new online infrastructure has improved her feeling of involvement in school.

“Because everyone was virtual I felt connected to my fellow students for a change,” Gibson said. “We had inside jokes, got to really know each other, and it made me feel like, for the first time ever, I was actually a college student like the people who went in person.”

In the past, Gibson had to work with professors one-on-one to take all her classes online. Now, the shifting infrastructure has made it possible for her to take most of her classes in the online format as well as giving her a peer group to connect with.

“As someone who has had to be fully online, it’s hard not to feel connected to everyone else,” Gibson said. “This experience with the virtual classes and all the other students being virtual was such a good experience for me and showed that it can be done to include people who are disabled and can’t be there in person due to being high risk.”

During one class session, Gibson said she heard some of her classmates discussing how “ridiculous” the pandemic and online learning was. She said they spoke about their desire to return to in-person format classes, despite being in the thick of the pandemic.

“As someone who is disabled and is at high risk for covid, hearing that was upsetting and hard,” Gibson said. “It made me feel like once again my entire college experience was invalid because it wasn’t in person. Because of the lack of precautions, I won’t be able to attend the graduation ceremony in person because of people wanting to go back to the old ‘normal.’”

Gibson said that she believes all colleges should continue to offer all of their classes online. It helps students with disabilities to not have to put pauses on their education for sickness, injuries, etc. She said it also can benefit parents in college and students who have to work full time to support themselves.

“Online classes help so many people, not just the disabled community,” Gibson said.

With the introduction of lockdown browsers and proctoring, universities are able to maintain academic integrity while still allowing students the freedom to receive an education remotely. Gibson said this is the future of the college experience for many people in unique circumstances, and the shift to online learning helped her professors become more helpful and understanding.

“Overall I notice a difference in the amount of effort and care that is being put into the online classes,” said Gibson. “People are taking them seriously now, and I think that’s a good thing not just for the disabled community but for the entire college community as a whole. So much of what we do is online and knowing how to work with different platforms is always a good thing.”

UMKC offers students with disabilities accommodations to aid in their academic success. For more information on UMKC disability services, visit https://info.umkc.edu/disability-services/.

jmt9w6@umsystem.edu

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