NEW JERSEY - The rise of COVID-19 has caused colleges across the country to take desperate measures, with many moving classes online for the rest of the spring semester. While some are providing emergency housing for international students who are unable to return to their home country yet, most have advised that their students return home and stay there until the fall semester starts up again. College classes are now holding lectures on Zoom and posting assignments online rather than meeting in-person.
The new change in format has affected many students, both negatively and positively. Some find it much harder to learn from online resources than it is to learn from attending a class. “In class, professors can tell whether students comprehend the information or if they need more time to go over it,” said Matthew Shouel, a senior finance major at Pennsylvania State University. “But that is lost when the classes are recorded.”
“The work is much less interactive at home,” noted Emma Isaacs, a communications and psychology student at Rutgers University. “So paying attention to the lectures can be hard.” She concurs that working from home does have its upsides, even if it is not ideal. “The best part of working from home is the fact that I can wake up whenever I want, and don’t even have to get out of bed if I don’t want to.”
College students are not unfamiliar with online classes - many courses are presented online, or as hybrid courses that integrate classical teaching with online resources. But distance learning has proven to be far different from what students are used to. “Previously, I have taken two online classes,” said Samantha Gessner, an information science major at the University of Maryland. “It is a lot different from what I am doing now because in 3 of my classes we are completing semester long group projects, so we have to be in constant contact with at least 6 others in a group which is difficult enough at school. A lot more of the work at home is trying to contact people and actually understand what is going on and what I am supposed to do.”
To make up for what may be lost through online learning, many universities have adopted “Pass-Fail” policies. Under these, a student could choose to take a class in a Pass-Fail format, meaning that they will simply pass or fail the class rather than receiving a grade. While this comes as a relief to students who lack good working environments or who are not doing as well in classes online, some dislike Pass-Fail grading because it has a less positive effect on one’s GPA than a letter grade might. Students at Harvard, along with several other colleges, have been campaigning for a change to the “Double A” grading model, in which professors can give all students an A or A- for the class. Their reasoning is that many students still rely on good grades for their scholarships and for grad school eligibility, so Double A would be more ideal than a standard Pass-Fail system.
“I’m honestly relieved,” said Fordham University student Kenneth Krizan of the change. “I do not think that my performance in any of my classes would have necessarily been impacted by the distanced learning, but if they are offering it, I will definitely elect to pass/fail my classes. I am a second-semester senior with a 4.0 GPA; the pass/fail basically lets me lock in my GPA and get out of undergraduate education without a snag.”