COVID-19 Impact at Pitt

In response to the international COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Pittsburgh has transitioned to remote virtual learning. All students were encouraged to remain at home following spring break, March 9-14th. The University made their announcement on Tuesday, March 10th regarding their transition to online courses and extended their spring break an additional week. Classes resumed on Monday, March 23rd, utilizing the online platforms. The department of economics elected to use Zoom Cloud.

The University has done its best to accommodate for difficult classes by offering online tutoring services in addition to a satisfactory/non-credit post-semester grading option. After grades have been finalized, Pitt explained that students who are unhappy with their grades may request to change their letter grade to the S/NC option. In doing so, the students GPA will not be negatively affected if they are not given credit for a course.

In accordance with the University’s recommendation to talk to department advisors, students and staff have made the transition to online or on-the-phone advising appointments. While it may not be as ideal as an in-person communication, it’s a solid second. Students and advisors are still able to discuss the upcoming summer and fall semesters, the classes they should take, in addition to how they are adjusting to the online transitions.

While it is understandable to feel the weight of the world in this situation, the University has responded well to the pandemic. Sending students home was conducted in a transparent and efficient manner, placing student, staff and faculty’s safety at the forefront of this decision. Additionally, Pitt has taken into consideration the stress of academics at such an uncertain time and provided students with the best resources they could, given the new virtual technology, as well as providing the option for students to choose either a letter grade or satisfactory/non-satisfactory grading scale.

We interviewed three economics majors asking them about their experiences using Zoom:

A senior reported his disappointment with a cut-off semester: “I never imaged my senior year would draw to a close where I wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage in front of my friends and family to get my diploma.” However, when prompted about his transition to Zoom classes he had a much more positive response: “I’m in monetary theory and policy with Professor Maloy and it’s been a pretty easy transition. The class is mostly essay-based which has allowed the content to be taught without any big issues.”

A junior enrolled in econometrics with Professor Federico Zincenko stated that his transition was seamless. “We were taught using PowerPoints in class, so it’s basically the same thing now. He records the lectures which is nice in case we aren’t able to tune in at the exact time our classes would be.”

While many students are adjusting to the transition of virtual classrooms, some students are worried about what may come next. A freshman enrolled in introductory macroeconomics considers the long-terms effect of the new grading option: “I’m really happy Pitt’s giving us the option for S/NC, but I’m kind of afraid of what that will mean later on. If I decide to go to grad school will they care I have an S and not a letter grade?” This question is on many students’ minds and while the answer may not be known at the moment, it is important to recognize the University has instructed students to consider these long term affects by having a conversation with their advisor.

The Panthernomics team and department of economics wishes you well during this uncertain time. We hope you and your family members are safe and practicing social distancing. Together we will overcome this pandemic. As always, Hail to Pitt!