Love them or hate them, online classes offer students and professors benefits that in-person courses lack. So, when the pandemic becomes nothing but a distant memory, some should continue online.
While online course delivery is nowhere near perfect at the moment, the flexibility it offers both students and professors cannot be ignored and begs the question: if some people prefer digital, why can’t some courses stay online?
Yes, the issue of poor bandwidth will always plague Zoom classes, and of course it can be hard to replace the social experience of meeting new people in class when everyone is muted in fear of being spoken over. But very few students would say they absolutely hate being able to wake up and be in class within the next five minutes. Not only is convenience appreciated, for many Western University students, it is long overdue.
For some students with disabilities, having to be on campus everyday presented challenges, even with the accommodations Western provided. Being able to attend online school allows students to work from home and on their own schedule — making them more accessible than in-person classes ever could be.
Students who work or have busy schedules also benefit from online classes, especially those with recorded lectures. Being able to watch lectures back allows students to make their own hours, so they’re not going from a night shift to 8 a.m. class. It also means night owls can crack open a book at 2 a.m. if that works better for them.
When it comes to which option provides the best learning experience, it really depends on the individual. For some, it can be mind numbing to listen to a professor drone on and on after already being fatigued from a day of Zoom university. Others in larger classes find it hard to focus among the hustle and bustle of 800 students crammed into a lecture hall.
Ideally, post-pandemic course delivery would involve in-person courses with the option of virtual attendance via livestream or recorded lectures. That way, students who crave the in-person element can attend physical lectures and those who would rather attend school from home can do so.
Universities should grow and adapt after spending an entire year online by combining the best of online learning with in-person classes. Western should avoid returning back to the way things were before, especially if they know some students were struggling to learn with the old system.