• Sara Rimer

    Senior Contributing Editor

    Sara Rimer

    Sara Rimer spent 26 years as a reporter at the New York Times, where she wrote about education, the death penalty, immigration, and aging in America, and was the New England bureau chief. The Times nominated her for the Pulitzer Prize. Her coverage of the death penalty was cited by the Supreme Court in its 2002 ruling outlawing the execution of developmentally disabled individuals. Profile

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There are 8 comments on BU Students: Zoom vs In-Person Classes? It’s Complicated

  1. This is a very positive take on the whole situation. As a student who has been forced to take multiple classes online, and who has family working in higher ed, this picture is a lot rosier than reality. We’re seeing students struggle more when they’re online, and then even more if try take classes asynchronously. Brown’s assertion that there is no difference between the three is unfounded, and anyone who’s actually had to take or teach a class during the pandemic knows it. I hope that the administration actually thinks to talk to students and faculty before trying to make the harmful decision to make some of these changes more permanent.

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. I don’t think that’s what the story says at all. It’s very clear that students much prefer in person learning, overwhelmingly. But the story, and people quoted in it, also acknowledge that for certain types of classes, some students have found Zoom to be acceptable. But hardly perfect.

      1. Hi Doug. I’m sorry, but this is just not true. In what world can you possibly compare online classes to in person??? It is incredibly infuriating when faculty, administration, and the likes pretend they are the same. The engagement, attention, and quality of work put forth by students is hampered incredibly in an online only class. For example, although college students are adults, the temptation of distraction when online is too great when a professor begins to drone on. Additionally, students are literally attending lecture in bed and falling asleep…. This is absolute nonsense and Zoom should never stick around in the future in a post-covid world. There is no place for it, period. It’s a waste of students’ money and time to sit in-front of a laptop when we are learning in one of the best academic cities in the country, Check yourself man,

        1. Thanks. Please don’t misunderstand what I was saying. I did not say that I am comparing anything or advocating anything. That’s not our role here. We talked to people for the story and the reported story shares what they feel and what they said. So they are the ones who said that some lecture classes worked OK on Zoom. And Pres. Brown is the one who said higher education may have to look at this in the future at some point. Your opinion on those subjects is equally valid and important.

  2. “‘It’s a little bit of a conundrum,’ says Suzanne Kennedy, associate provost ad interim for undergraduate affairs. ‘Fewer students are going to class than we had expected.’”

    On the contrary, it’s not a conundrum at all! Preferences change, often in somewhat predictable ways. Faculty have been telling BU leaders for months that this is what we expected to happen. If our leaders are surprised, that’s because they haven’t been listening to faculty. See, for instance, my “False Advertising and the In-Person Experience” (originally published externally, in Inside Higher Ed on August 12): http://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/students-learn-from-anywhere

    The above article skirts completely around the option of remote only classes, which many students are taking (sometimes from the start, and sometimes because everyone decides to attend the course remotely, even though it started in LfA mode). Fully remote courses avoid the serious problems that LfA courses have when it comes to trying to juggle the needs of students in the classroom and the needs of students attending remotely. Instructors who have been forced to teach in the LfA mode have been pointing out that their experiences reveal that the hybrid model doesn’t work well (the decision to use the LfA model was not made in any democratic fashion that reflected decisions by or the expertise of faculty; it was imposed on us).

    Why is the university so concerned that students are opting to attend remotely more than they expected they would? Why should students feel they need to return to in person classes during the pandemic? Harvard and other universities recognize that students live on campus for many different reasons, and have opted to allow (some) students to live on campus, while undergraduate courses are taken in a fully remote fashion. No serious attempt is made in this article to provide an argument for why students should return to in person classes during this pandemic if they don’t wish to attend classes in person. Perhaps the university is simply concerned about the LfA model collapsing almost completely. We have not been told why that would be a bad thing, all things considered, given the remote learning alternative.

    “…higher ed leaders, like BU President Robert A. Brown, acknowledge that the success of the hybrid experiment will force colleges to ask some hard questions about whether some aspects of the technology, such as the ability to Zoom into large lecture classes, could become a permanent part of higher education.”

    There are two problems with this. First, the hybrid experiment has not been successful, but this sentence is asking us to assume it has been. Second, it signals that our university president is taking seriously the idea of students being able to Zoom into large lecture classes becoming a *permanent* matter. Many faculty will feel that this is extremely worrying, for reasons to do with teaching sensitive content, privacy rights, and pedagogy. I do not mean to deny that there can be good reasons for allowing a video feed in some cases, such as when providing access for disabled students. But we should be very concerned if it were ever seriously suggested that the LfA hybrid teaching model is something that ought to be continued in any widespread fashion beyond this pandemic (this is not needed to meet the accessibility concern just mentioned). If that were to ever happen, faculty would need to do everything they can to draw a line in the sand.

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