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Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Editorial Board encourages professors to retain some distance-learning norms

Recorded classes, open-note exams and better professor etiquette should continue into Fall Quarter and beyond

All of the non-graduating members of the Editorial Board are excited to return to in-person learning. We can’t wait to socialize with our classmates and professors more easily, connect with people in our majors and engage in more active discussions. Despite our enthusiasm for in-person learning, the pandemic has brought many improvements to the educational system that should become permanent fixtures.

Recording and posting classes online gives students more flexibility to choose how to manage their time and succeed academically. It allows students to take classes with time conflicts, which could help to reduce the number of fifth-year students forced to take an extra year due to scheduling issues. For students able to attend class regularly, recordings would provide an opportunity to review material and utilize the pause feature to take better notes. Class recordings would also make it possible for students unable to return for Fall Quarter—either due to health reasons or international travel restrictions—to continue receiving a quality education. 

It shouldn’t be difficult for professors to continue to record classes, since they already have the technology in the form of Lecture Capture and are familiar with the recording process from four quarters of online learning. Offering recordings of classes also likely won’t impact attendance rates—students will still go to mandatory lectures because they care about their grade, and students have always slept through optional lectures, even when there are no recordings. 

The Editorial Board also believes that the ability to memorize facts is not an accurate measure of intelligence or a student’s understanding of the material, so some classes should continue to offer open-note midterms and finals. Although this isn’t feasible for all classes, allowing students to use handwritten notes reduces student stress and anxiety with no downside. It benefits learning outcomes and critical thinking as well, encouraging professors to write thought-provoking, comprehensive questions rather than relying on simple multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank. 

In addition to offering open-note tests, professors should continue to offer asynchronous exam options. It’s more convenient to be able to take exams in 24-hour windows—who doesn’t dread midterms at 7:30 a.m. or finals from 8-10 p.m.? Offering exams asynchronously would also give students the ability to take their exams in the comfort of their home, rather than the ridiculously tiny desks offered in many lecture halls. It’s miserable attempting to balance a scantron, exam booklet, permitted notes, scratch paper and a calculator on a desk barely larger than a textbook. 

Another benefit of Zoom university is that professors can’t yell at students for being late, leaving early, going to the restroom or eating a quick snack. Students can simply stop their camera and walk away or click the “Leave Meeting” button. Before the pandemic, multiple members of the Editorial Board witnessed professors yelling at students in crowded, attendance-optional lecture halls for leaving early and demanding an excuse. One member even witnessed a professor chase two students down the hallway to confront them. We ask that professors let us do our thing in peace. As adults, we should have the agency to go to the restroom or to a doctor’s appointment without causing a massive scene.

We applaud the professors who have been accommodating and understanding during the pandemic, but we urge them to remember that returning to in-person learning will also be a difficult transition. Many students will likely be struggling with social anxiety, time management issues and busier schedules in general during a live Fall Quarter. 

In-person lecture halls will likely be difficult for many of us to return to—awkwardly clambering over strangers to reach middle seats, bumping elbows while taking notes and getting sneezed on by someone in a back row will be strange and potentially upsetting experiences. Students will spend more time commuting, from home to class and back home again, which will cut into time they could have spent studying during the pandemic. 

Even though we’re excited to return to campus, Fall Quarter won’t be easy for students and professors alike. By then, we’ll have spent almost a year and a half indoors with minimal social contact, and it will take a long time for many of us to return to our normal routines. Implementing these few, easy changes gives professors and university administration an incredible opportunity to make learning more enjoyable and less stressful for years to come. 

Written by: The Editorial Board

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