The Professor’s Point of View: The Struggles of Running an Online Semester
June 18, 2020 by Sara Rousalova
It was late January when the world was alerted of the spread of a mysterious novel virus in Wuhan, China. Few people knew that COVID-19 would become a pandemic resulting in unprecedented destruction around the globe, changing our way of life. Nor did Yonsei students predict that all their future class discussions would be held via computer screens. Students were frustrated at the lack of guidelines and late notices about the spring semester. However, few know that the situation was no different for professors.
“I began to hear rumors mid-February that the university was considering online courses, then more rumors about delaying the semester but I didn’t know anything for sure until the official (announcements),” says Professor Kelly Walsh. Professor Jihoon Lee says that he had a similar experience with the school. “I would be lying if I said I received enough resources and support in the beginning.”
Although online classes allow professors to stay home, it does not necessarily mean that they have an easier time than they would otherwise. In fact, many found that online courses were more challenging to manage. “I sympathize with the students’ frustration about online courses, but it requires more time and effort to make these online courses work (because) we are doing the best to make the content as close as possible to the offline settings,“ says Professor Walsh.
In addition to the increased time required to prepare for classes, professors expressed discontent at not being able to directly interact with the students. “I enjoy interacting with students face to face, especially when all of my classes deal with popular culture in which students can have their own say and share their opinions with one another. While online, I just cannot expect the same level of concentration and involvement as in the classroom. The same goes for students,” says Professor Lee.
Others were more candid in their criticism of students and the lack of participation during online courses. “We are not mind readers. We can’t tell what the students are interested in,” says Professor Walsh. He claims that active participation online can enhance the experience for everyone. Professor Denton has similar advice for his students. “_If you don't reach out, introduce yourself, and find people with common interests, you're missing out on the most important part of your college education. And I think it's possible to do that online.” _
The reliance on ZOOM also raises privacy and copyright concerns. “The university is very concerned about copyright issues and it is still not ideal so going forward this is the one thing that needs to be addressed – how do professors offer the content without violating any laws? There seems to be a lot of emphasis on saying what not to do but there is a lack of guidelines on how to actually navigate the situation,” says Professor Walsh.
Despite efforts to provide satisfactory online classes, many students have been requesting a partial refund of their tuition; they claim that it is impossible to get the same value out of a virtual classroom, especially in fields such as music or sports. The university, on the other hand, claims that conducting online classes adds extra costs, such as those from making specialized ZOOM accounts for teaching staff or providing technical support assistants. This debate shows no sign of subsiding as we approach the end of the semester. However, there is no doubt that the policies implemented by the school have been successful at the most important goal; keeping students and faculty safe. “In times like this, nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of everyone concerned,” says Professor Lee.
We must bear in mind that the school can enact whatever policy it deems fit, but without active cooperation from individuals, COVID-19 cannot be overcome. Until the situation settles down, we should all stay at home and take good care of ourselves.