Recently, a colleague of mine wrote a column about the reasons why NC State should aim to make all online classes synchronous, if not for this semester, at least for the next. While he made some very strong points and put forth relatable arguments about the stress students face in an online environment, I strongly believe that not every student is fortunate enough to be able to attend classes synchronously from home.
The very first argument is time zones. We have students trying to take classes from halfway across the world and from all over our country, and making all classes synchronous would force them to attend classes at extremely odd hours, sometimes even in the middle of the night. Even taking a look at things a little closer to home in our own country, a student who has a synchronous class at 8:30 a.m. but lives in California would have to take it at 5:30 a.m. For international students, this change would be even more drastic and will definitely hinder their ability to do well in class.
Secondly, not every student’s sole commitment in life is college, especially during COVID-19. Many students are taking advantage of asynchronous classes to work a job on the side and earn more money. For some students, these jobs provide a little pocket money for snacks and clothes; for others it pays their rent and helps keep their family fed and healthy. These jobs are a lifeline for many students, and if classes were to be fully synchronous, many of them would lose their ability to work and earn a livable income.
Furthermore, not every home is the best place for a student to study and learn at all times. While some of us are privileged enough to have our own rooms and the ability to drown out our family’s background noise simply by shutting the door, others do not. Many students share rooms with others or don’t have a proper desk to study on. Some students have to share technology with their parents or siblings, and have to wait for their turn to work on the computer. Some students have the responsibility of taking care of their younger siblings thrown on them because their parents have to work, and so they simply can’t shut themselves in their rooms to attend class. When everyone was on campus, there was hardly any excuse for them to not attend in-person classes. But now, given the circumstances, we have to understand that every student has a different life and different responsibilities, so as a university, we need to take care of all of them, not just a few.
Thirdly, we need to take into consideration our professors as well. Just like every student has varying circumstances, so do our instructors. Professors who opted for synchronous lectures are now teaching class from the same environment where their toddlers are running around or their dog is barking at the mailman, without the privilege of being able to keep their microphone muted at all times. While some professors are comfortable with live Zoom classes, others are not and we need to respect that.
It is not a secret that Zoom can sometimes be infuriating, with its infinite glitches and internet connection problems. If students our age found Zoom to be a pain, imagine what it might have been like for professors when this transition happened. I know many professors who spent the summer recording lectures and now simply post them on the Moodle page because they were afraid of messing up live. Instead of complaining, we should be appreciative of the fact that they went to such lengths to ensure that our education does not get interrupted, and they are doing the best they can during a pandemic.
Lastly, to address my fellow columnist’s troubles, it is not impossible to follow a strict schedule while classes are asynchronous. We need to be aware of our own limitations and preferences, and then plan a schedule accordingly. Even though the University may not force us to attend classes at a fixed time, we can force ourselves, as long as we keep the plan realistic. But most importantly, there is nothing wrong with deviating from the schedule sometimes. We are all human, and we are living through a global pandemic, so it is OK not to be perfect all the time. With time, we will all figure out our quirks and what works well for us, but asking a whole university to make drastic changes, which inconveniences others, is not the way to go about it.