The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday March 30th

'The only option': Faculty and students prepare for a summer of remote courses

DTH Photo Illustration. A student sits at a desk on March 16, 2020. UNC students and professors are preparing for online instruction.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. A student sits at a desk on March 16, 2020. UNC students and professors are preparing for online instruction.

The University announced at the beginning of the month that all courses for summer 2020 will be delivered through remote instruction in an effort to weaken the spread of of COVID-19. 

The announcement discussed measures the University will take to assist students in these trying times. For one, students will now be allowed to enroll in more credit hours per session than usual. 

“To allow greater opportunity for students to progress to degree, we will allow them to enroll in nine credits in Summer I and nine credits in Summer II, without requiring approval from their dean,” the statement said. 

In addition, the College of Arts & Sciences will continue to suspend its regular “no pass/fail” policy and extend the Spring 2020 Emergency Grading Accommodation through the summer 2020 terms.  

Sherry Salyer, interim dean of the Summer School, supports this decision and said the transition to online instruction is the best approach the University could have taken. 

“Provost Blouin kept the deans of all the schools involved and updated,” she said. “Once the decision was made by the UNC System Office, the issue was settled. The only option was to offer them remotely.”

Teaching quite a few classes of her own, Salyer said she was encouraged to see how successful the transition to remote learning was this semester. 

“Faculty are always striving to better their courses,” she said. “Many of us have never taught online, so the learning curve is steep. I’m enjoying the challenge and look forward to consulting with the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence to further improve my class.”

Jennifer Hower, a junior nursing major, said the School of Nursing usually has students participate in clinicals over the summer, but that won’t be an option this year — at least not face to face. 

“Our plan now, I believe, is to have lectures through Zoom and VoiceThreads,” Hower said. “Our clinical will also be online, although they’re still figuring out how exactly they’re going to do that.”

Hower speculated the clinical portion of her courses will likely be a mixture of discussions, case studies and online simulations. 

“The nursing school, in general, is very good at listening and implementing student opinions and concerns and always goes above and beyond to design our program in the most fair way to us that also meets the Board of Nursing requirements,” she said.

But Hower expressed concern about missing out on the clinical reasoning skills students learn from working in the hospital and developing the physical dexterity required to perform certain skills.

“I wish I could practice the skills we’re learning about on real people,” she said. 

Another student, Kwame Amankwah, is also concerned about remote learning. Amankwah, a sophomore biology major, worries about losing motivation. 

“Already, I’ve lost motivation to do anything,” he said. “I’m playing video games until, like, an hour before something’s due. I’m not really learning anything new. 

Amankwah said if he had a choice, he wouldn’t take classes online. But he said he worries that in order to be able to go to medical school without taking an additional year, he has to. 

Maggie Greene, a sophomore media and journalism major, said finding success through remote instruction this summer may prove more difficult than it did in the spring. 

“The positive side of the spring semester was that we were able to spend half of it receiving face-to-face instruction and could learn our professors' preferences and grading techniques and develop a basic understanding of the course in person,” she said. “This made the transition to remote learning a lot easier, as we knew what was expected of us in our respective classes.”

In the case of summer courses, however, Greene notes that students won’t have the same luxury of beginning with face-to-face instruction. 

Gracie Whitley, a sophomore exercise and sports science major, said she’s grateful for the pass/fail option being in place in case the transition proves to be more difficult than expected.

“I’m trying not to rely on it because I want to prove to graduate schools that I can persevere through adversity,” she said. “It is nice to know that it’s there in case of extenuating circumstances though.”

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