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Editorial: It may be time to rethink how we deal with the anxieties of in-person learning

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KIRK SMITH/THE REVIEW
Returning to the anxieties of in-person classes and exams could be a big jump.

After more than a year of online teaching and learning, most students and professors forget what it is like to have class in an actual classroom. The university’s announcement that 95% of classes would be held in person came as a relief but also with a sense of fear as students — especially current and incoming freshmen — wonder if they will be able to handle the perceived rigors of in-person classes. 

While not all online courses are easier than their in-person equivalents, a great majority of them are at least more flexible. 

It is no secret that for some students, online classes are often less academically stressful: many professors have made their exams open-note to address students’ increased ability to use outside resources without detection; students save time having to commute only from their beds to their desks and exams are no longer in lecture halls with TAs monitoring students’ every move. The university’s modified pass/fail system has also taken some of the pressure off of students during the pandemic. That said, returning to the anxieties of in-person classes and exams could be a big jump.

There are also fears of a pandemic learning gap, especially for students who have had to work or care for family members throughout the pandemic and haven’t had the time to engage in their online classes. According to a poll conducted in May 2020 by Education Trust and the Global Strategy Group, 77% of undergraduate students stated that they were worried about staying on track and being able to graduate. With the continuation of online learning in higher education, this number has likely gone up, and with that, anxiety about staying on track will already be heightened by the start of the fall semester. 

While the pandemic itself has certainly brought its own sources of stress and most professors have been more flexible with their students throughout — recording their lectures, allowing students to take exams when they please, relaxing attendance policies and taking other actions as well to accommodate individual students — this flexibility should be adjusted to fit an in-person environments as well. 

We suggest that professors maintain an understanding of their students’ situations outside of the classroom and remain sympathetic to certain difficulties that they face even long after the pandemic ends. Our difficult experiences from throughout the pandemic should be a lesson in empathy — one that we can take with us as we move forward. 

To the professors who never did adopt more flexible methods during the online semesters, it is not too late to do so now. Perhaps it is time to rethink approaches to in-person teaching as a whole. Perhaps it is time to truly prioritize students. 

The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Editor-in-Chief, Kelsey Wagner. She may be reached at kdwagner@udel.edu.

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