By Zachary Baker and Ben Goldberger —
There are few things that will make the entire country stop their busy lives, but the recent outbreak of COVID-19 has accomplished just that. Everything from national sport leagues to small businesses have been shut down in efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Universities across the country have closed down their campuses, some telling students to pack up all their belongings and leave campus for good. The University of Louisville announced on March 11 that Spring Break would be extended to March 17, and classes would be offered online from March 18 to April 5 at the earliest.
Zachary Baker and Ben Goldberger voice their opinions on U of L switching to online classes in reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Many people have applauded the university’s actions, claiming the threat of the virus is so significant that it would be dangerous not to cancel classes. However, others have expressed concerns about the university’s response. Was moving to distance ed classes the appropriate response to the coronavirus threat?
A proportion of students are worried about the effects that will come from the mandatory change to online classes during this semester, and the anxiety is rational.
To begin, students are concerned that professors are not technologically knowledgeable enough to teach online classes. Across U of L’s campus, students make jokes about times in class when some professors could not open up YouTube videos correctly or even post an assignment on Blackboard without delay. It is almost guaranteed that every student at U of L has had at least one professor who was almost impossible to email.
The anxiety comes directly from personal experience for most students, and while the university is promising training for all professors on online classes, it is clear from previous experiences they are woefully unprepared.
Additionally, this decision will directly affect learning for many students as on-campus classes are a necessity for some. There are several students at U of L who require special accommodations for classes and online classes do not tend to those needs. This does those students a great disservice, especially when considering the age bracket for college students is the least likely to be affected by the coronavirus.
These precautions are being made for a group of people who are the most unlikely to be hurt by this outbreak. This is not saying we should not take these precautions, but that we are taking an unnecessarily excessive jump that will hurt the academic situation of many students.
Students have expressed concerns about their academic standing.
“I’m worried about how online courses will proceed and how grading and credit might be affected,” said sophomore Derrell Myles. These concerns continue to spread throughout the student body, and many are anxious about how the semester will proceed.
Should the university be noticed for taking measures to protect the student body? Absolutely. Was it the most thought out response considering the students’ needs and the abilities of the faculty? After the concerns brought up, this is still uncertain, but some hope the university is prepared for what will be developing over the next couple of weeks.
Some students are angry about the recent closures of college campuses and switches to online courses, labeling it an overreaction to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. The reactions by these universities are actually very appropriate decisions to make in response to the coronavirus.
Though switching to online courses and, in some cases, sending students home for the rest of the semester may seem excessive, it is what has to happen to limit the spread of the virus.
After all, anything that is done proactively is seen as excessive, and anything done retrospectively is too late.
There have been multiple studies released that show the importance of social distancing and how it limits the spreading of the coronavirus.
“A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America of the 1918 influenza pandemic provided powerful evidence that cities that implemented interventions early — such as closing churches, schools, theaters and dance halls and forbidding crowding on street cars and banning public gatherings — experienced much lower peaks in the death rates than ones that did not,” said the Washington Post.
While practicing social distancing will not stop the spread of COVID-19 all together, it will decrease it exponentially. This virus will not go away if everyone continues to live their lives as normal. Precautions have to be taken to stop the virus, and one of these precautions is limiting contact with individuals as much as possible.
Another large concern with the switch to online courses is that the professors will not be able to properly facilitate their class online.
While some professors struggle with technology, most have experience with either teaching online or using other forms of technology to facilitate their classes. Every class at the university uses some sort of technological classroom, whether that be Blackboard, TopHat or another software. Even if a professor isn’t skilled at using the software, they still have received training on how to use them and are knowledgeable enough to make it work.
On top of this, the university regularly offers online classes year-round, so they are well prepared to provide online education for all of their students. U of L would not have made this switch if they did not feel confident that their professors will be able to provide a level of education online that is consistent with in-person classes.
This situation is definitely less than ideal and in-person classes would be more beneficial. But with the situation the world is in right now, the decision to switch to remote courses is by far the best decision that the university could make.
File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal