A recent opinion column on Technician’s website called for NC State to switch all fall 2020 courses to a synchronous learning format. While the desire to have a regulated schedule is understandable, this change would be incredibly destructive for many students.
This semester has been difficult for everyone — students, professors and parents alike. It can be easy to muse over the ways things could be different, but in the case of scheduling, it is far better to have consistency than to have students constantly reorient their lives. Allowing professors to decide their class format is the only option that makes sense: it creates a healthy blend of synchronous and asynchronous, giving students a combination of structure and flexibility.
We are six weeks into the semester, and it seems students are just starting to get settled into their new living situations and course load. Unlike the abrupt class changes made in March, students entered this semester with a relatively good understanding of the demands of online work. To change class formats now, for a second time this semester, would be utterly pointless and detrimental to any “new normal” students have been able to create since the cancellation of in-person classes.
NC State students do so much more than their classwork. They have clubs and organizations, jobs, pets to take care of, family and friends to keep up with and mental health to maintain. NC State students are incredibly resilient, as we’ve seen during constant campus changes, but this can only go so far. Uprooting students’ lives once again to appease those who struggle to wake up early is ludicrous and inconsiderate.
Furthermore, it’s important to be mindful of students with unstable internet connections. It is far easier to set aside time to go to a place with consistent internet to do one’s weekly work than it is to find these spaces sporadically throughout a day of synchronous Zooms. Connectivity in student living complexes is often iffy, and students living at home may not have quality internet access or may need to share computers with family members. Enforcing hours of often needless Zoom discussion would only work to alienate these already disadvantaged students.
I understand the value of seminar and discussion in college learning. In my synchronous classes, I enjoy getting to see and speak with my classmates and professors, and I learn a lot from them. However, my asynchronous courses are asynchronous for a reason. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to collegiate education in a pandemic, and it is foolish to pretend that there is.
If we are still online next semester, NC State should allow professors to choose their meeting format on a case-by-case basis. Online education often requires more work from students, and flexibility is key to ensure they stay afloat.