Adapting some beneficial aspects of online teaching can improve the system. However, colleges and universities must be careful to ensure that the negative aspects are left behind with the pandemic. The future terrain of education will be ever more inclusive towards technology, and with that, schools need to be deliberate about what the new norm will become.
As the fall semester approaches, students nationwide are gearing up for a new academic year. The ever-evolving pandemic situation has significantly altered the way students engage with their education, with a marked reliance on online classes technology. COVID-19 has reshaped the educational landscape, resulting in the temporary disappearance of traditional in-person classes throughout 2020, only to see a gradual return in 2021. Many campuses, such as Texas A&M University, are now set to operate at full capacity, signaling a shift back towards a more familiar ‘old normal’ in classroom settings. After carrying out classes virtually for three semesters the use of technology will not be as heavy as traditional classes. There are however some technological tools that were prominent in COVID-19 education that would be beneficial if continued for traditional in-person classes and many that are better left in the past.
With social distancing being strictly enforced, Zoom classes became the norm. Despite the lack of social interaction and the academic struggle that accompanied this form of learning, some benefits were still apparent. The flexibility of classes being offered online was helpful for some students. From personal experience, I was able to easily attend class using my Microsoft Surface Pro anywhere I needed to be. Convenience was without a doubt present and I believe it would benefit if continued. Professors should consider recording in-person classes when practical, as it would benefit students who have to miss due to emergencies or excused absences. Most classrooms have technology in place to record classes and post them online.
Having the ability to go back and rewatch lectures is useful not only for students who are experiencing an emergency but also for students who struggle academically. If students had the opportunity to go back and watch a lecture at their own pace, the academic pressure would be relieved as many students would have the ability to better their grades and improve their mental health.
Another norm that was present during COVID learning was the reality of online exams. Exams taken on the computer were taxing and left students with more problems than solutions. Online exams are something that I can envision being continued in traditional classes as they facilitate the distribution of exam material in a cost-effective manner. Although monetarily online exams are beneficial, mental health costs are much higher and outweigh the financial perks. Frustration is a common thread that runs throughout students who have to take exams and quizzes online. For instance, math or science-based classes that require the use of scratch paper makes the process more stressful. Having to copy all the problems from your computer screen onto a sheet of paper (without making any mistakes)compounded with the pressing time constraints, makes the test-taking process mentally taxing.
Not only are mental health struggles an issue with online exams, but there are also basic logistical issues that make online exams not sustainable. A common problem that students ran into was the loss of internet mid-exam or simple format issues that negated their scores. Regardless of whether students had a high-end Dell Precision laptop or a simple tablet most aspects were beyond their control and created a negative experience for many. All factors considered; most of us students do not endorse the use of online exams.
Although classes will be returning to in-person, the technological adaptations that took place to fit the online education model are useful in many aspects to the traditional face-to-face mode of teaching.