At the start of the pandemic, students across the country switched from in-person mode of instruction to learning from behind a screen. This abrupt change came with little to no warning, leaving students and teachers with limited time to prepare.
This shift in instruction has not only affected students academically, but has also limited the way they are able to interact with their instructors. Nearly one year later, IU students said they are still adjusting to online schooling.
“Having to sit in on a Zoom is very different than an actual face-to-face interaction for me,” IU senior Dejah Riley said. “Getting to know students isn’t something that professors stress anymore, unless it’s a student who talks frequently during class. That makes them more memorable, I guess.”
IU campus lecture halls, like Woodburn Hall, could seat around 500 students before COVID-19 restrictions. Learning the names of students and forming a personal relationship with each one could always be daunting, especially with so many students on campus. Now students have the options of one-on-one meetings and virtual office hours via Zoom to get to know their professors, but online meetings can be frustrating, junior Antonio Turner said.
“I communicate with all of my professors. I just think the difference is now it gets annoying.” Turner said. “Sometimes I have a lot of questions, and I type a lot of emails and Canvas messages. When we were on campus, professors were in their offices so we could always just go meet them.”
Turner said one of his instructors directs all questions, comments and concerns to the course’s assistant instructor instead of personally responding to students.
“She doesn’t even take emails, so there is no relationship there,” Turner said.
Professors are under pressure to quickly adjust to the needs of students in a virtual setting, courses need to be adjusted to account for its new dependence on technology, senior Jemore Simpson said.
“I’m not gonna lie, I feel some professors are pretty stubborn on the way that they want to teach their courses,” Simpson said. “Sometimes they feel like the way that they’re already teaching is the best way their class can be taught.”
Hesitation to compromise could lead to a breakdown in the professor's relationships with their students.
The added responsibilities of work and extracurricular activities can create additional obstacles for students taking classes online.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Simpson was a campus DJ. His job sometimes made taking classes in person difficult, but he said he still prefers the hands-on nature of in-person instruction.
Taking online courses from home does not imply students have extra free time for more assignments or are working any less than before, he said.
Online modes of course instruction can also affect the way students perform academically.
“Students in online courses perform substantially worse than students in traditional in-person courses,” a study published in the American Economic Review found.
The study also found negative effects of online course taking for students who had lower GPAs prior to online learning.
“I feel like there are different types of learners. A lot of people can’t learn just sitting there listening to a lecture,” Turner said. “Some people are hands-on. You might be able to get an A through modules online, but not get an A in person. Learning is more than a grade.”
Now that students are aware that the online course experience is drastically different from in-person instruction, they can focus on finding ways to best succeed, senior Tèa Smith said.
“The biggest way that I’ve accommodated to this situation is reaching out to others,” Smith said. “Being in a sorority, I have line sisters that are going through the same thing that I’m going through and we literally hold each other accountable.”
Smith said she also makes GroupMes of the students in her classes for accountability.