Tue. Dec 1st, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW community preferences for in-person and online classes in Spring Semester

4 min read

Empty classroom from inside James Farmer Hall. | Matthew Simmons, The Blue & Gray Press

by Mikayla McDonald

Staff Writer

With registration for the spring 2021 approaching, students and faculty have mixed preferences for  online and in-person classes.

“I prefer being online, but I understand why in-person or hybrid courses are something that other people might like, but to me it is not very ideal during this time. I believe that not risking the chance of getting sick or getting other people sick is my main priority, even if that means I miss out on seeking opportunities on campus,” said Tamara Omer, a senior English major.

Other students agree.

“I prefer to do online classes next semester. It is more manageable for me,” said sophomore psychology major Casey Reyes. “I like online classes because you can go at your own pace. It is a bit more flexible and easy as you can join class online from anywhere with wifi. I like that I can ask for help and ask questions without feeling anxious or shy as I would have if it were being taught on campus.”

Omer appreciates being online as she notes the health and safety of her and other students during this on-going pandemic.

“I think with online classes there is less of a risk factor in getting infected with Covid. I  do not think that taking classes in-person at this time would benefit me. If I were to be in in-person classes I would definitely struggle with constantly worrying about whether or not I am safe, or if I am keeping others around me safe. I feel like it could definitely get in the way of how I would be  performing in school,” said Omer.   

While many students have adapted to online learning, professors have also noted the challenges that online teaching presents.

“My online classes are synchronous, so we meet in ZOOM meetings.  During these meetings, most students choose to leave their video off.  While I understand that there are many important reasons to not use a video feed online, this creates further separation between students and me,” said Dr. Alan Griffith, professor of biological sciences.

Students also agree that in-person classes have their perks.

“I like in-person classes because of the interactions you get to have in class. You are able to get to know your professor more and can ask questions when needed,” said Reyes. 

Faculty note that they enjoy in-person classes because of the personal connection between students and the professors.

“While I can manage many of my classes online, most of them are taught best in-person. For me, and I believe for students, the interactions we experience in-person cannot be replicated online. I am almost always energized when in the classroom, except maybe Mondays.  My students recognize this and I believe this energy motivates them to engage,” said Griffith. “I prefer, always, to teach in-person. I have many reasons for this preference. First and foremost, that is how I’ve been teaching all my life.  I began teaching in about 1980 in a residential, environmental education program. Our motto was ‘learn by doing’ and I aspire to that motto to this day. I believe I can best engage my students in their learning face to face.”

UMW faculty also differentiate their style of teaching as they switch from in-person to online teaching.

“My Senior Seminar is online this semester partly because it was a course I could teach online with little change.  But, my choice was also about the learning needs of my students.  Our Biology Senior Seminars are speaking intensive.  For me, they include individual oral presentations and discussions led by the students.  As I reflected on the changes thrown on us by COVID-19, I knew many students would be moving into jobs and careers that were online. Interacting and speaking professionally online is a learning process.  So, teaching my Senior Seminar could support some of that learning,” said Griffith.

However, some students and faculty share their concerns for the spring semester on whether they want to go back into the classroom or stay online.

“It is hard to say and it really depends. I do not think we should be required to go back to in-person courses. It is definitely not fair to people who are at high risk or who commute and live with family who are at high risk,” said Omer.

Griffith prefers to go back to in-person classes, but will continue to work hard under either circumstance.

“It is both about teaching and about staying safe.  If we can return to the classroom and keep everyone safe and healthy, I want to return to the classroom.  If it is safer to remain online, I am willing to work hard to make my online classroom as good as my in-person classroom,” said Griffith.

Nonetheless, some students and faculty express an eagerness for the spring semester.

“I am excited for a couple of psychology classes and a computer science class. I am hoping for them to be taught online. I feel like they can easily be taught online and manage work much easier,” said Reyes.

Correction: An earlier version of this article was attributed to Justin Cappal. Mikayla McDonald is the writer of this piece.

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