Branson reopens its campus, allowing students to learn in-person with classmates

By Emma Casaudoumecq

Branson reopened its campus on Oct. 19 for a hybrid learning format consisting of a combination of in-person learning with masked social distancing and distance learning over Zoom.

Many students chose to attend classes on-campus, which was a welcomed change after months of online learning. However, others chose to study from home, whether due to personal reasons or to follow the two-week quarantine required by Branson’s travel policy.

“I think it’s a lot easier if it’s in-person,” freshman Tara Sridharan said, adding, “I pick up more information, and I learn better than I would in distance learning.”

Many students find it easier to learn in-person because of the ability to be geographically in the same room as the instructor.

Freshman Zina Vidalakis expressed her preference for on-campus learning, saying, “I work best in a learning environment where I have contact with other people. … I learn better when I am able to see the teachers, too.”

Technology also plays a vital role in Branson’s learning format, beginning with Zoom initially, and now transferring to Owl cameras with 360-degree rotation.

Vidalakis later added that “It’s easier to have the teacher in the classroom because that way there is not really any lags or audio breaking up.”

However, some of those learning from home have a different view on technology and how it has impacted their learning experience.

Freshman Anna Han, who is currently distance learning due to the mandated Branson travel quarantine, said, “When everyone was on Zoom, there was no Owl cam. I think that was actually easier because all the unmuting and the sounds.”

Despite the overwhelming positive of socializing with others in-person daily, one negative is that students have less time in their day because of the travel time included with going to campus.

Vidalakis, who mainly takes the bus to school, shared, “I have to get up earlier … to get to school, and I get home a lot later.”

Nonetheless, students are willing to give up a fraction of their time in order to be with their classmates because they have faith in Branson’s safe approach to returning to campus.

“All the protocols were super strict, and everyone was willing to follow them,” Sridharan said.

Students also feel that Branson has handled the transition back to on-campus learning very well; Branson has created a perfect balance between progressing back to normal and still remaining safe during a global pandemic.

“It’s pretty much as normal as it can be right now with social distancing and the masks … that’s not really how it used to be,” Vidalakis said. “But we’re all still on-campus.”

Additionally, those who will be able to return to campus in the coming rotation are looking forward to the opportunity.

“I definitely want to be on-campus to see all my classmates and to interact more with them,” Han said.

Overall, students are excited to be back learning in-person, the norm before COVID-19 hit in March of 2020.

“It’s working out a lot better than I thought, and the transition has been pretty smooth,” Vidalakis said.