From art history to women's and gender studies, UNC classes have switched to remote instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — and many professors have eased their expectations of students amid a global crisis.
Others may not have been so accommodating, according to a petition shared on social media regarding the remote instruction for Biology 252L: Fundamentals of Human Anatomy and Physiology Laboratory. The petition currently has more than 180 signatures.
According to the petition, the course has added difficult "mini exams" to the curriculum following the University's switch to remote learning.
The writer of the petition, who is not listed and could not be identified by The Daily Tar Heel, said on the petition that they felt as though, during an already stressful time, the class was increasing in difficulty and worsening the burden on students.
“In general, the transition from in-person to online should not warrant this degree of difference in the difficulty of this course," the petition reads. "We do not believe it is for the instructors to make this course increasingly strenuous because these expectations require knowledge far out of the scope of the class to succeed — especially in comparison to expectations from other semesters.”
A couple of people commented on the petition explaining their stances.
“The purpose of quizzes/exams are to test our knowledge — not to trick us," a commenter wrote. "Why strive for bell curve grades during such difficult and uncertain times? Please be more fair and reasonable.”
Seth Alexander, a graduate teaching fellow and the current instructor of the class, said though the conditions of online learning aren’t ideal, he thinks it would be better for struggling students to seek individual help.
“I think the best course of action (in this or any other circumstance) is to improve communication and encourage students to seek individual help when they’re not doing well," Alexander said in an email. "Students are unlikely to realize that the concepts being tested are not significantly different from this part of the course in any other semester. We’re actually seeing that students are doing as well or better with these assessments than previous groups of students.”
Alexander said one of the changes to the course included a switch to instruction by asynchronous, recorded lectures so that students could have more flexibility.
“In retrospect, I would have preferred a required time where students meet with their TA to give students more structure and individual help when needed," Alexander said in the email. "Rather than optional, virtual office hours that have been underutilized.”
Corey Johnson, a teaching associate professor and the associate chairperson of the biology department, does not teach the course. He said he understands that this is a difficult time for many students, but believes the course is still structured in a beneficial way.
“Because of the challenges that students are facing, I would have changed the syllabus to move to a greater number of lower-stakes assessments in order to put less emphasis on any one exam," Johnson said. "I believe this is exactly what has been done.
Regarding the petition, I was sorry to see that a struggling student would take his or her concerns public rather than meet with the professor to discuss a poor performance. The current situation is hard for a lot of students, and those even without financial hardship or death of loved ones still struggle in their own way.”
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