Pandemic learning — what’s the best format for classes?


Photo Courtesy/ Unsplash Alex Knight

Interacting with professors today is not like it was pre-pandemic. For most of us, if we choose not to turn on our cameras, our professors can not even see us. I for one have opted to try out every option St. John’s offers in these — I know you’re sick of hearing it — unprecedented times. That includes taking fully online courses, both synchronous and asynchronous, hybrid courses and face-to-face courses. I decided to mix up the format of my education in order to see which one works best for me, just in case we never return to school as it once was. 

Though I prefer face-to face-instruction, I have found benefits to dealing with professors in each setting. To me, face-to-face offers the most in-depth experience. You are engaged with your professor as well as your classmates, and it is most possible to establish a rapport this way. However, I have known students who have experienced professors removing their masks for the duration of the class at what they — but not the students — deemed a “safe distance” to do so. 

In synchronous courses, I have come to realize that professors, for some reason, are less likely to require cameras be turned on. This can be a plus if, say, I am having a bad hair day. But I do find that the requirement to turn on my camera can keep me more accountable when it comes to focusing on the lecture in front of me and not daydreaming instead. 

I would have to rank asynchronous courses second best behind face-to-face. I realize the irony here is that the two are nothing alike. But what I like about professors who teach asynchronously is that they seem to be the most compassionate about the fact that we are still trying to get an education amid a pandemic. These are the professors who have been flexible about deadlines and more concerned about their students’ general well-being compared to others. I have taken to joining their office hours via Webex in order to get a better understanding of the material, or even just to get to know them. 

My least favorite form of instruction is hybrid. However, I am biased as a commuter student, so, this is simply not the best option for me considering I have a lengthy trip to campus just to take one class in-person once a week. I think professors could be a bit more considerate of this, and, maybe if it would benefit the greater body of their students, they could elect to move their course fully in-person or fully online. 

It goes without saying that dealing with professors has changed since the pandemic hit. I am happy to be getting an education and we should do anything we can do, both individually and collectively, to make the experience that much better. If that means opting to take your hybrid or in-person course via Webex, I encourage it, because what may not be officially compliant with the rules imposed by the University may be morally compliant with our own rules for governing ourselves.