At the end of the 2020 fall semester ASU announced plans to encourage more faculty to teach in-person for the spring 2021 semester. ASU has laid the proper groundwork for a safe transition of getting students back into classrooms this Spring semester. Even in a pandemic, education is still important and in-person learning remains the most effective form of education.
Frederick Corey, vice provost of undergraduate education, said in an interview that ASU believed classes would be filled with too many students during the fall semester. Only about 20% of the student body has returned to campus for in-person classes, well below expectations and preparations of ASU administration.
ASU significantly overestimated and over-prepared for the amount of students attending in-person during the 2020 fall semester. The University has the capacity to host more in-person students because less students currently attend in-person than the amount that the university prepared for.
Every potential outlet that maximizes student opportunities during a pandemic should be considered by ASU — especially the opportunity to learn in a “normal” classroom setting. Students react more favorably towards in-person opportunities than learning an online learning format.
William Noll a Biomedical Engineering student at ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College is one of many students that prefer in-person instruction. After becoming dissatisfied with online lectures and nearly no in-person instruction, he moved back home instead of living on campus as he did earlier in the semester.
“A lot of the learning is about the environment that you are in,” Noll said. “I like being surrounded by students that are also trying to learn.” If given the opportunity to attend more classes in-person, he said he would go.
Not only do some students prefer learning in-person, but many studies reinforce that students perform better learning in-person than online. Students consciously chose not to attend an online university when they chose ASU, so why should we treat ASU like an online university?
ASU should commit to offering as many in-person opportunities possible. In-person instruction is both preferred by students and it leads to better student performance. Encouraging professors to offer safe, in-person opportunities for students is a decision that ensures education is still valued amid a pandemic.
ASU announced a new policy stating that professors need provost approval to change ASU sync classes (both in-person and online options) to exclusively online. This is an excellent policy as it requires additional thought and approval before students are denied in-person opportunities.
In a recent State Press interview, ASU spokesperson Jay Thorne said the lack of in-person student attendance could be a result of the lack of in-person faculty. The hope of encouraging more faculty to return to campus, Thorne added, is that it will lead to “more students in the classroom.”
Thorne argued that “it really does make a difference to students if faculty are there and not remote.”
In addition to ASU’s ability to welcome back a greater capacity of students due to over-preparation in the fall semester, ASU has other safety preparations in place for in-person classes including: larger classroom sizes, mask mandates in classrooms, social distancing, equipment for students attending via Sync, and most recently in-person faculty access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Thorne is so confident that ASU’s safety guidelines allow for a safe learning experience in-person that in a follow up email to the State Press interview he said, “with testing, distancing and face coverings, being on campus is one of the healthiest places you can be.”
ASU is even planning to try outdoor learning for the upcoming Spring semester.
Professors should be encouraged to return to campus because it will provide students with more in-person opportunities, but more importantly because it can be done safely due to ASU’s commitment to maintaining safety and following guidelines from the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of COVID-19 cases on ASU campus are frequently not representative of the cases in Arizona. ASU has demonstrated numbers in the past as low as 19 active cases on campus. ASU can safely and ethically encourage more professors to return for the Spring semester.
As a freshman myself, I have only experienced college through ‘Zoom University’. I would greatly appreciate and utilize every in-person opportunity offered in the Spring semester, and I know I’m not alone. ASU is right in encouraging professors to come back in person.