While I always figured my laptop would be a vital resource to my college experience, I never anticipated it would be my classroom for an entire semester. All of my lectures, discussions, homework and communication with other students occur virtually, despite the so-called hybrid semester that was originally advertised.
Though many students might complain remote learning does not offer the same quality of education and teaching as in-person classes, I would argue the actual problem with the university’s online offerings is they are too similar to in-person instruction.
What I mean by this can be best explained by the structure of one of my current classes, which has always had an online summer offering. Lectures are pre-recorded videos supplemented by articles, readings and guest lecture videos, while discussions occur synchronously and ample office hours are provided. In contrast, a smaller lecture in which I’m currently enrolled is taught exactly in the same manner as it would be face-to-face and the professor speaks to his students over BB Collaborate for 75 minutes.
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Although the latter experience is synchronous and essentially identical to an in-person lecture, the former class is significantly more engaging and fulfilling as it offers plenty of relevant course materials outside of the pre-recorded videos.
My experience is not a unique one, either. Remote classes trying to mirror in-person learning are often harder to succeed in since the material is not adapted to the new delivery method. For sophomore Hugh Steiner, this is true for language classes in particular, given “the ability to talk with peers in-person, make mistakes and observe mannerisms is crucial. ” Yet, it is nonexistent in online courses.
Similarly, Steiner is enrolled in a large chemistry lecture in which the core lectures are asynchronous, though synchronous sections are offered to allow for problem-solving and open-ended questions for the professor.
Considering the fact online courses are proven to increase the probability of a student dropping out compared to taking the same class in-person, such courses should offer more time to go over and discuss difficult material with the professor, as opposed to just being lectured at.
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Even though the expectation for the fall semester was that courses under 50 students would occur in person, this is seldom the case for many students, including myself.
Instead, an opportunity for professors to utilize online learning materials simply became a platform to lecture in exactly the same way as before, ultimately to students’ detriment. There is no justification for on-campus activity to resume when in-person instruction — arguably the main purpose of attending university — is offered remotely.
Still, with a hybrid spring semester planned, it doesn’t seem likely lectures will go back to in-person anytime soon. However, next semesters’ courses should incorporate student feedback, especially if lectures qualifying to be held in person are remote once again.
Most importantly, online lectures should be formatted with such delivery in mind, instead of replicating the in-person environment lectures are best suited for. 75 minutes in a lecture hall is significantly different than 75 minutes alone on your laptop taking notes with no student interaction, therefore, professors should be cognizant of this and perhaps include break-out rooms for students to discuss material and questions among themselves.
For some classes, there is, unfortunately, no alternative to going through textbook material and notes, while for others, professor-student interaction is integral to grasping the material and ample office hours and time for review should be offered.
Of course, professors’ safety is just as important as students’ when it comes to teaching in-person. But both my own experiences and those of my peers clearly demonstrate there is little accountability on behalf of the professors to deliver sufficient remote lecturing, begging the question of what our university education is supposed to look like when other campus activities seem to be prioritized.
Anne Isman ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying economics.