COVID-19 has severely hampered the course of universities across the country, revealing the good, bad, and ugly of US education trends. I traveled back to India when Syracuse University closed in March 2020. I was clearly naïve enough to believe that this situation was the perfect solution for a homesick international student, however I did not take into account the cost of online learning and the time difference.
Waking up at 4am Indian Standard Time to take a stats exam and staying up until 3am to take my screenwriting class was tough. On the other hand, I also had asynchronous classes, which was a blessing in disguise. Then, about a year and a half later, we were all back on campus, vowing to follow all preventive measures and trying to get back to normal. However, one important question remained unanswered: will online learning have to be abandoned after the pandemic?
I would say in favor of offline learning that classroom teaching creates a more stimulating environment for both students and professors. It eliminates the feeling of isolation by bringing students together and placing them in a more responsible and personal atmosphere. It also reduces the risk of potential internet problems and the possibility of students being distracted from their computer.
All in all, in-person courses provide students with the traditional college experience, allowing them to meet new people and build their social circle by physically interacting with fellow students and professors. It helps students overcome their laziness and stay aware of their surroundings while behaving professionally on campus. This is a unique experience that online learning spectacularly cannot match.
On the contrary, online classes can work in favor of by those living with social anxiety or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, both of which can be exacerbated due to the environment built around physically interactive sessions. Face-to-face classes can make many students uncomfortable when sitting with a group of people they don’t know, causing students to become distracted and uncomfortable.
Online learning is a great way to provide students with resources, increase accessibility, and reduce the stress of handwriting information. I’ve seen a variety of learning styles introduced by different professors over the course of the pandemic and I don’t see why the virtual teaching styles need to be abandoned.
Now we have to find a way to implant the trend of online learning in the traditional face-to-face university. From a student’s point of view, it really depends on the type of teaching. For example, it sounds a lot easier to take a sociology course online than a physics lab course. Likewise, a human development and family sciences course would be much more convenient than a film course. Nevertheless, every student has to complete a number of electives in the course of their studies. Teaching some of these courses online would be really efficient in terms of productivity and a great time saver for the students.
Many classes consisting primarily of verbal lectures and discussions could be conducted asynchronously, giving students the flexibility to review notes, complete assignments and easily participate in discussions, with given assignments being submitted by the end of each week. Such courses help create a good balance in a student’s academic schedule as they spend more time and effort focusing on excelling in their main courses.
SU has a collection of the most popular or most chosen classes (particularly by freshmen and sophomores) to meet general elective requirements such as: PS 205 and SOC 101. I believe these courses have the potential to be just as constructive and successful when taught online. Additionally, these courses do not require a rigorous exam to test a student’s understanding of the subject, as this requirement can be met through regular discussion posts, papers, and quizzes.
Universities can continue to exist as they have until now, even after penetrating the trend of online learning. The world is constantly evolving and the digital age will soon prevail as it is already beginning. Online learning is the beginning of something new and our university needs to play to the strengths of both forms of learning and implement the new digital way of educating students. The only challenge is to encourage online learning while trying to maintain the benefits of physically interactive learning in the digital age.
Shriya Anitha Vinod Menon is a junior student majoring in TV, Radio and Film with a minor in Psychology. Her column appears bi-weekly and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published March 23, 2022 at 8:38 p.m