Some students attending Supplemental Instruction sessions through the Center for Academic Success are frustrated that unlike the previous year, there is no Zoom option. CAS teaching assistants do offer Zoom office hours, but not for the sessions themselves.
Many students attend SI sessions because they are valuable reviews before quizzes or tests, and some professors offer bonus points for attending a certain amount of sessions in a semester. With solely in-person sessions (excluding other senior colleges that may offer online SI) some are worried about COVID transmission, and others say busy school and work schedules don’t give them the time to attend in person.
Social work junior Amelia Vidrine is a full-time student and worker who has an SI session for her chemistry class. She said her busy schedule doesn’t leave her the time or energy to go to an in-person session.
“I think I could really benefit from going. SI sessions helped me a lot my freshman year,” Vidrine said. “I don’t think it’s fair that students last semester got more accessible help.”
She also thinks students who live with immunocompromised people may be discouraged from attending, even with masks and social distancing measures.
Political science sophomore John Ellender attended SI sessions for his world religions course over Zoom last year, but between school, work and fraternity activities has little time to attend in-person sessions.
“[The sessions] were great. I would attend them weekly,” Ellender said. “Now that sessions aren’t being offered online it makes it a lot harder to attend.”
His SI sessions for this semester are only scheduled 24 hours in advance at most, so he does not have the time to rearrange his schedule with such short notice.
He added that he doesn’t have any COVID concerns about in-person sessions because he believes university protocols work very well.
Environmental geology sophomore Connor George feels that student feedback about the accessibility of Zoom has been ignored.
“It frustrates me that the school isn't listening to the students but making choices based on what they had already predetermined would be best for us,” George said. “To have both on the table is what matters.”
George also said some of his in-person SI sessions have online signup sheets that fill up quickly, especially when they are scheduled close to test reviews. He says this creates a disadvantage for those who want to attend but can’t.
Associate Director of Academic Support Matthew Mattox said CAS, like the rest of LSU, had a directive to schedule as much as they could in person, and said SI sessions are not meant to be lectures but a collaborative practice between the SI leader and students. This collaborative element was difficult to incorporate last year because many students would join sessions and turn their video off.
“When we were online, it was incredibly difficult to do the sessions properly,” Mattox said. “The sessions are just better in person. They get immediate feedback from their SI leader.”
For students that need an online experience, he said CAS still offers online office hours for teaching assistants, as well as other online tutoring.
Mattox also said students must understand that SI is not specific to LSU but part of an international organization. Accredited institutions must meet certain requirements to keep their status, and one of these is a certain percentage of enrolled students going to SI sessions.
During the pandemic, SI participation was very low, but CAS has seen a surge in attendance at the in-person sessions. Mattox says sessions are supervised and CAS has not heard reports of anyone failing to comply with masks or social distancing measures at a session.
Biological engineering junior Atula Danivas said he attended SI sessions before the pandemic, but hasn’t had any for his classes since then. He believes an in-person experience is crucial to SI being effective.
“Going to the SI, hearing all the material from a different perspective helps you understand it better,” Danivas said. "It does result in a better grade.”