Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, LSU has made significant adjustments to the way classes are conducted. Classes moved completely online for several months before in-person learning could resume, and some professors still offer instruction via Zoom only.
With most classes returning to an in-person format this semester, remnants of remote learning remain, like optional Zoom sessions and pre-recorded lectures. Are they here to stay?
Many students and professors who never had any experience with an online learning format prior to the pandemic were forced to adapt to the remote learning.
“Students had to learn how to live in an online world,” said Oliver Dasbach, chair of the Math Department. “That takes some learning curve. And some of our professors who didn’t teach online before had to find their own rhythm to do this.”
Many students and professors say learning over Zoom is too impersonal and more difficult. Others believe online courses offer greater flexibility and less stress.
Dasbach sees the future of online learning playing out largely the same way it is this semester: mostly in-person classes coupled with Zoom options and recorded lectures for students who enjoy the convenience to access their classes when they choose, or from the comfort of their bedrooms.
“I think we are a university which has to be face to face in some way,” Dasbach said. “And then I could imagine that we augment it in some way with online.”
Education freshmen Malynn Cooper and Hannah Le said they find the hybrid format to be convenient, especially for early classes that are hard to get up and walk to every day.
“I like having the option,” Le said. “There’s days where I don’t want to walk to go to class.”
However, they also said a heavy online course load may discourage students from socializing, as it can leave people with little reason to leave their dorm rooms.
“I understand way more [in-person] than when I’m doing it online,” Cooper said. “In-person gives you a motivation to go there, to do the schoolwork.”
Both students believe that the focus of in-person instruction is necessary to engage students, and that doing class from a dorm room leads to distractions that don’t exist in a traditional classroom.
After going through remote learning in high school, first-year students are eager to live the pre-pandemic college experience, and many say the in-person part of that is priceless.
Mechanical engineering freshman Carson Cooper said that online courses usually don’t function as well as regular courses because it’s a lot to ask of a professor to figure out the best way to teach outside the classroom.
“When you’re there, you’re fully immersed in the classroom,” Cooper said. “When you’re on Zoom, it’s not the same. You lose focus.”
He believes that the vaccine mandate and other university COVID policies provide more than enough reason to return to full in-person learning.
One of the most flexible forms of hybrid classes were professors recording their lectures, which would likely be the easiest online practice to continue after the pandemic.
Some students say having increased flexibility with in-person requirements allows them to take time to recuperate from their busy schedules.
Leadership and human resource development senior Hannah Leblanc said that being a resident advisor last semester combined with mostly online classes didn’t give her much time to leave her dorm.
“Hybrid classes are more accessible due to the flexible format,” Leblanc said. “Attending class is a lot easier, but paying attention is a lot more difficult than in a classroom.”
She said having hybrid classes allowed her the opportunity to take time aside for mental health as well as travel. Without the convenience of accessing lectures when she pleases, Leblanc says she’s now too busy with in-person classes every day to take time away and rest.
Leblanc believes the quality of hybrid courses suffered because professors may not have been experienced enough with the technology needed to run courses efficiently online given that they had little time to make adjustments, especially when classes first went online.
Biology professor Evanna Gleason said many of her students responded in course evaluations that they liked the ability to go back and listen to lectures if they couldn’t make it to class or to re-enforce the material. She did say, however, that it’s always a benefit for students to go to class.
“I do think there will be things, not necessarily in lieu of going to class, but maybe online exercises that make that class time more valuable,” said Gleason.