Students deserve to get what they pay for
In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic silenced the University of Massachusetts campus. In just a few days, the students were forced to make frantic arrangements to return home and abandon their endless possessions and friends. As the campus remained lifeless, UMass moved the courses online.
The 2020-2021 academic year was the first time that many UMass students have taken online courses. Likewise, many professors had never taught a program exclusively online and had to quickly discard the entire structure of their courses from the methodology they had used for years. The online school presented an unlimited number of challenges for UMass, but the school was able to adapt and successfully complete a year of online education.
Today UMass is in a very different place. The campus is alive again, and students can attend classes in a classroom rather than from their beds. Students should follow guidelines to minimize the spread of the virus, but the UMass campus has managed to get back into shape after being empty for so long.
The challenge today is not as simple as minimizing the spread on a campus with so many people. While the increase in COVID cases on campus is cause for concern, it is only half the story. The problem is also that people are getting very sick as multiple illnesses unrelated to COVID are making their way into the student body. This is hardly a surprising event, as colds often spread quickly on college campuses in the first few weeks. Not surprisingly, after a year of heightened public health awareness, the spread of these colds is of concern to professors and students alike.
Current UMass guidelines strongly encourage students to attend classes in person. For example, even those who are in close contact with someone positive for COVID-19 should attend classes unless they show symptoms. Coupled with the fact that the tests are optional this semester, it’s completely understandable that professors are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in their classrooms.
The point is, professors are teaching a host of students – many of whom are visibly ill – knowing that testing isn’t mandatory and any student could already be infected with COVID-19. This reality has sparked discussions about returning to online courses or integrating certain aspects of online courses to further minimize the spread.
The idea that courts are moving online to punish the increased spread of COVID-19 is absurd. Threats like “if you don’t wear your mask, we can come back online” fail to recognize the fundamental flaw in online education: online learning is simply inferior to in-person education. This fact is understood by everyone, from STEM students who were forced to run online labs during the pandemic, to English majors who are trying to have quality discussions with people in breakout rooms with their families. cameras off. Online schooling simply does not have the capacity to provide the hands-on experience and collaboration that is so vital in an academic setting. Discussion and collaboration mark the college experience, and online schooling makes any kind of connection with other people nearly impossible.
UMass students need to understand that they are paying for a commodity. UMass serves the student body as the product of education, and it’s critical that students understand exactly what they’re paying for. UMass was able to charge full tuition fees for online courses last year, but times have changed and the University now has the capacity to offer an in-person experience. Students pay a lot of money for hands-on training that just can’t be matched online.
Any return to the online classroom would be a great degradation of the quality of teaching provided by UMass. Regardless of whether the return is motivated by a legitimate increase in COVID-19 cases or not, UMass should never consider reducing the quality of someone’s education at a heavy cost. Students pay high tuition fees to attend this school, and online courses fail to provide students with the product they pay for.
Garrett Jacobsmeier can be contacted at [email protected]