Online classes are central to students’ “new normal.” But whether those classes are synchronous or asynchronous, none of us have a normal school year ahead of us — yet it still has the same price tag.
Nothing can beat fully in-person classes — the opportunity to casually interact with professors and peers is unmatched online. Not to mention that tuition also pays for on-campus university experiences, from in-person clubs to gyms, that students can’t access this year. It’s painfully obvious the education students are getting is not worth the tuition they’re paying.
But in the context of a pandemic — where fully in-person instruction is not possible — synchronous classes are more effective.
Communication can often be bogged down through email channels or forum posts in an asynchronous course and having the opportunity to ask questions and hear classmates' thoughts is incredibly valuable. Synchronous classes also provide structure and most closely resemble in-person class — students are directly taught by their professors instead of handed material and told to teach themselves.
While it’s true asynchronous classes have more flexibility, something some students desperately need right now, and can be more accessible for students in different time zones, the system doesn’t work for everyone.
Asynchronous courses place too much pressure on students to manage their own time and lack structure at a time when most students desperately need stability in their lives.
Professors should have to provide some level of structure for students — especially as tuition prices remain unaffected.
Some asynchronous courses do have structure, with small weekly assignments or quizzes to keep students on track, but ultimately any flexibility given to students through this asynchronous format is lost in the extra workload and stress piled on by dozens of small assignments.
Nobody asked for this pandemic and it’s making everyone’s lives harder — students and professors alike. But the bottom line is students are paying to go to university during a pandemic and professors are being paid to teach them — they need to do it in a way that works for their students.
And despite the awkwardness of staring at your classmates through a computer screen, synchronous classes provide an opportunity to connect, engage in conversation and ultimately learn better.
No online class is going to be worth full tuition, but if that’s what students have to pay, then online courses should be delivered with the structure and benefits of face-to-face lectures.