After NC State’s announcement to move all classes to an online format, I returned home with ambitious plans for the future. Yes, I was extremely disappointed that I would no longer be able to see my friends and enjoy the plethora of features that make NC State so wonderful, such as the Brickyard, Talley Student Union and the Free Expression Tunnel, but I was eager to have copious amounts of time on my hands. With classes being held in an online format, some of which were asynchronous, there was now ample time to do some of the things I was unable to accomplish during the “normal days” at NC State, such as working out and reading.
I figured that with some of my classes being held asynchronous, I would be able to utilize the time I normally would use for classes to accomplish other pursuits. I revised my Google calendar drastically and planned my day out to the minute. I had aspiring plans to wake up every day at 6:30 a.m. I allocated time for the asynchronous classes in the early morning so that I could get them out of the way, and I reserved about 40 minutes every day for each of my extracurricular activities.
It did not take long for me to realize that this plan of mine was foolishly impractical and rather myopic. When the alarm rang at 6:30 a.m., I, in my lethargic state, would hit the snooze button, reassuring myself that I could do my asynchronous classes after my synchronous ones. With no synchronous courses until 8:30 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., I had no motivation to wake up earlier than necessary to complete the asynchronous ones. Consequently, my whole schedule would fall to pieces.
On days where my classes were at 8:30 a.m., I would wake up minutes before the lecture began. On days in which my classes were at 10:15 a.m., I would wake up at 9:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., and I would take my time to eat breakfast or skim through social media. I became conscious of the fact that, by not having all of my classes synchronous, I could never really have a daily regimen. I would finish the work for the asynchronous courses at varying times, sometimes late in the afternoon, sometimes an hour before midnight. Even more troubling was the extent to which I would stretch out the work for my asynchronous courses over the day. Asynchronous courses generally have much more lenient deadlines than synchronous ones. As a result, I would have no incentive to complete my asynchronous course assignment as promptly as my synchronous ones.
In the interests of shaping online courses to be similar to in-person courses, NC State should make all courses synchronous. The beauty of in-person classes is not that they merely grant students the opportunity to physically interact with their professors, but they naturally establish a daily schedule for most of us. Now that we are in an online format, synchronous courses are the closest we can get to establishing a weekly regimen.
Moreover, taking asynchronous courses is akin to completing an online orientation. Every week, there are various online lectures to be seen, and after viewing them, we take an assessment at the end of the module. To make up for the social aspects of online courses, there are several discussion boards, where we fruitlessly attempt to foster social connections with our peers by typing responses to their questions.
For example, Person X will upload a lengthy paragraph concerning, say, the dangers of globalism. Person Y will reply to Person X with a trite statement such as “Great response!” or “Nice work!” and will then proceed to summarize Person X’s own summary. Our replies are just so robotic and predictable. What’s more is that this rather mundane process repeats itself every week as students seek to receive credit for “participating” in class discussion. At least with synchronous courses, we can actively engage with our classmates on Zoom rather than having to resort to dull, typed responses.
I recognize that moving all classes to a synchronous format will undoubtedly be difficult for many professors of asynchronous courses, who have spent countless hours rearranging their course schedules. But, by making all courses synchronous, students can have a more structured daily regimen, potentially gain a better foundation of the material than they would asynchronously and possibly mitigate some of the more monotonous aspects of asynchronous courses. If we are still online next semester, NC State should make all classes synchronous.