By Anna Williams

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, unorthodox methods of education were introduced as a means to retain the hard work that students had put into the 2019-2020 school year. The University of Louisville (U of L) implemented the academic structure of distance learning because of the pandemic’s increased chance of infection through close contact.

Understanding why U of L established distance learning instead of the more traditional online learning is important. U of L’s decision is what allows many students, like myself, to have accommodations that they didn’t have prior to the pandemic.

Distance learning is any education provided without the teacher and students being physically present together. This structure would include assignments that are designed to be completed online and pre-recorded PowerPoint lectures.

Online learning, on the other hand, is a blended learning technique where in-person interaction between a professor and student can occur. This structure would include completing assignments online after an in-person lecture.

There are limitations when it comes to accommodations that can be provided by online learning. However, distance learning offers a variety of students the ability to excel in their academics. This is why U of L’s decision to implement distance learning courses for its students is so accommodating.

Because I suffer from a chronic illness that can take away my ability to participate in in-person classes without warning, I have relied on distance learning to help me accomplish my academic goals.

I have been able to take courses that are needed for my bachelor’s of English diploma, such as English Literature and Spanish II, in an environment and at a pace that works best for my health.

If U of L had never implemented this academic structure, I would have had an extremely difficult time working with professors to meet my necessary accommodations. I am sure that other disabled students like me have found the distance learning options helpful as well.

Disabled students aren’t the only group that is grateful for the opportunity to take distance learning courses. Full-time working students have also found it incredibly liberating to have the option to complete their education in a way that is more compatible with their lifestyle.

Considering that in 2017 there were 43% of undergraduates worked full time, and the numbers are seemingly growing by the year, distance learning options must stay available for those students. Their undergraduate success depends on the availability of distance learning courses.

Some opponents of the implementation of distance learning may say that it offers students an easy way to pass a class for credit because students can just cheat by using online sources instead of studying. I understand this perspective, but thoroughly disagree with the notion that cheating solely occurs with distance learning and not with in-person courses.

Those opponents have to remember that many plagiarism scanning software, such as Respondus LockDown Browser, are used to prevent acts of cheating from occurring. The software isn’t as prevalent in in-person courses, which makes in-person courses more prone to experience cheating over distance learning courses.

I encourage U of L to continue offering distance learning as an academic structure for its students. COVID-19 may not require social distancing anymore and that may seem enough to warrant the removal of most distance learning courses, but I believe the continuation of those courses will help students like me thrive during their time at U of L.

Photo Courtesy// AJ Watt, U of L News