October 24, 2021
Ithaca, NY | 50°F

Opinion

Commentary: Return to in-person classes amid COVID has been hard

As students and faculty transition to in-person classes, many are discovering new obstacles within post-pandemic education. While there is no template for this transition, discussion about these challenges — as observed by students, faculty, admission and community members — paired with adequate consideration and measurable implementation, will help our campus continue the transition and reduce strain on our community members. 

Despite the return to in-person classes, current COVID-19 risks still warrant caution. How do we best support our community who have experienced a potential exposure or display symptoms? Without Zoom, it’s become more challenging for faculty and students to self-isolate without missing classes. Some faculty members have been adjusting attendance policies to accommodate COVID-19-related absences, but this issue hasn’t been fully resolved. Procedures vary course-to-course, and it is challenging to find ways to supplement missed class time.

Many students have integrated remote learning tools into their regular academic routines and are struggling to supplement these useful online resources. The recording feature on Zoom, allowing educators to record their class for students to return to later, has proven incredibly useful. Students in content-heavy courses often return to these recordings while reviewing class material. As students transition to in-person classes, many are feeling a sense of urgency to absorb everything in a single sitting. While recordings are useful, refinement is necessary before integrating them as a commonplace educational resource. The college’s suggested template that outlines course syllabi states the following about class recordings (conducted by students): “​​permission to allow the recording is not a transfer of any intellectual property rights in the recording... Students who are given permission to record class lectures or discussions must destroy the recordings at the end of the semester in which they are enrolled in the class.” While this statement was written to acknowledge recordings conducted by students (after receiving permission), it acknowledges the complexities of intellectual property distribution. Currently, recordings aren’t an adequate replacement for classroom engagement, don’t allow professors to evaluate student participation and pose potential issues regarding the distribution of intellectual property. Though Canvas is still new to the college, maybe a solution lies within this platform, giving students a platform to access class recordings, while ensuring the protection of educators’ material by monitoring site activity. 

As a tutor, teaching assistant and student, I’ve noticed my peers and I have forgotten important concepts in our studies. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have peers and professors who are elated to refresh foundational concepts, and hope this is a shared experience. I have found that once identified, this confusion is easily resolvable — that being said, I feel obliged to acknowledge this issue given its frequency and prevalence.

Pre-COVID, I had become so reliant on a classroom or the library to initiate focus. Changing my learning environments challenged me to find new ways to initiate a classroom headspace, like assigning places at home solely for work. My roommates and I would experiment with different strategies to incite motivation during the lockdown. As the semester progressed we soon lost count of how many times we attempted the famous “Pomodoro Method.” For me, I found “lo-fi radio” or “REAL TIME: Study with Me” videos are incredibly effective to spark motivation. 

Looking back, it seems like a simple solution: white noise. Instead of soothing ocean waves, I benefited from the familiar sounds of library-like settings: the faint scribbles in a notebook, and keyboard clicking, etc. 

During remote learning, I came to greatly value learning tools that could simulate the setting I had always associated with productivity. 

As students and faculty continue to transition to in-person classes, there have been incredible feats worth noting. These may include a sense of tangibility and familiarity, increased quality of engagement and understanding and valuable social interaction. I applaud the Ithaca College community for its commitment to education. To ease this transition, I hope students and faculty alike can accommodate unique obstacles and welcome discussion about these challenges.