The return to in-person learning at UNC this fall has been relatively smooth. We haven’t been sent home and there were no apparent major or widespread outbreaks on campus.
Nearly 90 percent of classes at UNC this semester are in-person, Assistant Provost and University Registrar Lauren DiGrazia said in August. This massive reduction in online classes is welcomed by students tired of Zoom University who were yearning for a return to normalcy after nearly 18 months of being at home.
While we may enjoy the increased interactions and improved quality of learning the return of in-person instruction has brought, there are still some things we will miss about online/hybrid classes.
Things like being able to just get out of bed and attend a lecture instead of having to prepare for and walk to class. Additionally, things like open-note tests that weren’t timed will also be missed as the future of hybrid learning looks uncertain.
There are many reasons why an online component for classes should be maintained. For one, they allow more flexibility for students who need to travel or work frequently, or those who may not feel well that particular day and don’t want to risk coming in person but still want to be involved.
Another benefit of keeping hybrid classes is that it increases access to learning, as students can go back and rewatch lectures if professors continue to record them. This allows students more freedom with their time as they can review the lectures whenever they like — instead of feeling like they’ve been left behind if they missed class.
Hybrid learning also helps to accommodate different learning styles. For example, auditory learners can rewind recorded lectures to better understand the material, while visual learners can benefit by reviewing slideshows however many times they like.
Even for professors hybrid learning is beneficial, as they can prerecord lectures or continue to hold Zoom classes if they are unable to come in person. Additionally, professors may also find more flexibility in keeping things like virtual office hours, which allows them to help students without having to always be on campus.
For this semester at least, a lot of professors have remained flexible when it comes to allowing students to attend in-person class or on Zoom, posting Zoom recordings of the lectures afterward or even having open-note tests that don’t have to be completed within the class period.
While most of us probably don’t want full-fledged online classes anymore, components of online learning that actually made our learning better need to be kept permanently.
Indeed, according to Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs, chief transformation officer for the National School Boards Association, the “new normal is not going away,” when talking about whether hybrid learning was just a temporary stopgap.
UNC and other institutions should take note and not completely abandon all components of online classes, and instead try to encourage professors to adopt some of these aspects for the long term.
As we gradually start to move on from the effects of COVID-19, the new status quo should adapt and make changes to improve flexibility and accessibility.
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