Kentucky students are roughly a week and a half into the fall semester. Most students are taking at least one virtual class, and over 50 percent of the students I know are taking exclusively online courses. But in-person classes have persisted for some of us, usually dependent upon a student’s major.
I polled folks around campus, asking them whether they preferred their online courses or their in-person courses. If their entire course load has been switched to online-only, how do they feel about that?
Since I’m the author and have had the opportunity to take both versions, I’ll start with my personal preference:
In-person, please! I’m a fidgety daydreamer with the patience of Bobby Knight. In terms of torture, staring idly into a computer screen for longer than ten minutes ranks between waterboarding and re-watching the 2017 Kentucky-Florida football game.
As I wrote on Sunday, I felt campus and in-person classes are the safest aspect of the 2020 college experience. If you have COVID-19 as a Kentucky student, odds are you didn’t catch it between Cooper drive and Avenue of Champions.
I enjoy on-campus class. My teachers have done an excellent job maintaining normalcy and keeping everyone engaged. Smaller class sizes due to the virus have also helped. With no more than 15 or 16 of us in a given room all coping with the same corona craziness in every aspect of our lives, it’s a more-connective environment and I’m cherishing it.
Some students may still feel unsafe, which is totally understandable, although that isn’t what I heard from most of the people surveyed. Here are some of their responses below:
(Note: I spoke mainly with students walking around campus and not to those more cautious who stay mainly in their respective housing, so as my former statistics teacher Eddie Noe would say, we may have some confounding variables here with a more virus-brazen sample group.)
Two freshmen I spoke with in the William T. Young Library each indicated they would rather have in-person classes. Class was “more hands-on” and would keep them “engaged,” they said. Also, one noted he wanted to go to class in-person so he could meet new people, and his friend agreed, noting they’d met in high school.
That was a key point to me. As a junior, you still enjoy the chance to meet new people, but the process of finding new friends as a freshman is fondly important to the traditional college experience. COVID-19 is handicapping that opportunity.
A pair of guys I ran into near the Woodland Glen freshman dormitories also said they would rather attend class physically. One said he was “just more geared that way,” adding he would have an easier time paying attention in an actual classroom. He also added that he was “less likely to miss an assignment” given all the confusion of taking class virtually and not having as easy, direct access to professors. The other person agreed on both points.
As for the freshman I spoke with, they unanimously preferred in-person classes, even while acknowledging the risks of contracting COVID-19. Again, I only spoke with freshmen who were out and about on campus – not those who opted to stay indoors, or even those who stayed in their hometowns altogether to take entirely virtual classes.
Among upperclassmen, the desire for in-person classes wasn’t as strong. A guy in my apartment building said he was loving his online classes and how he’s able to complete his classes without having to leave his room or deal with traveling to campus.
I asked two fellow junior-year friends of mine whether they preferred the in-person or online classes and got mixed results. My pal Kayla Uchytil enthusiastically stated, “at first, I preferred in-person but I’m starting to prefer online more because I like the flexibility of it!”
A former roommate of mine, Cameron Goss, said he still prefers in-person meetings, but he likes seeing flexibility for those in quarantine or who currently have COVID-19, which the university and individual in-person classes have plans for. Flexibility is crucial amid coronavirus. I think students taking the few in-person classes left should have the flexibility to take them exclusively online if they feel safer doing so. I know this creates an easy excuse for skipping class, but that’s something you just have to deal with during a global pandemic.
I found it interesting how little safety seemed to matter to everyone aside from Goss. Perhaps students feel incredibly safe with the abundance of precautions taken by the University to protect campus from COVID-19. Perhaps most students spoke mainly out of their own preference, regardless of the national crisis.
The majority of freshmen and underclass students I’ve spoken with are really missing the opportunity to enjoy a “normal” college experience, and many of the juniors and seniors are content keeping their college life off-campus, where partying and hanging out with friends hasn’t changed nearly as much (whether or not it should is a separate question).
The issue appeared to be less about the coronavirus and more about whether students wanted to stay in their rooms for class or keep attending in-person class in general. Going forward, far beyond COVID’s timeline, will mostly-online classes become a trend that sticks? It seems like some students would certainly be on board.