By Lauren Higgins
After nearly a year-and-a-half of virtual learning, professors at SUNY Brockport have been told by the administration that they can no longer offer online versions of their classes. Professors who teach face-to-face can no longer record or live stream classes for students who can’t attend in person.
The decision to resume in-person courses is not a popular one, as many professors say forcing them to abandon online classes is not in the best interest of students who favor them. As a result, they are reluctant to speak about it out of fear of repercussions.
One professor who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity said faculty are struggling to understand the college’s thinking.
“I was surprised at the decision. They told us at the beginning of the school year that we could use it at our own discretion,” the professor said.
According to the professor, there were several instances where some of their students had to be quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19, forcing them to attend class virtually.
“If it weren’t for the ability to livestream class, those students would have been lost when it came to exam day,” the professor said.
There is no clear indication as to why the college decided to get rid of virtual learning, but the professor believes the decision was influenced by students taking advantage of the option to attend online.
Brockport sophomore Hailey Mitchell is one of the many students who disagree with the college’s decision.
“The decision personally doesn’t affect me because my teachers have never offered an online option. However, it would affect anyone who is trying to do the right thing and get information from class when they are not able to attend,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell believes there is a way to monitor those overusing the online option. She said professors could make a rule similar to the one regarding the number of unexcused absences per semester. The rule would allow students to attend class virtually, but only for a limited number of times.
Sophomore Kaelin Shepard shared similar views.
“I feel like virtual learning is important because if students are in quarantine and can’t make it to class, they miss out on all the material that was taught that day,” Shepard said.
Shepard said she personally prefers in-person classes, but if she had a reason that prevented her from attending face-to-face, she’d want virtual learning to be an option for her.
Even though COVID-19 cases are on the rise, colleges in the area have no plans to return to online learning.
Two SUNY Campuses, Binghamton and Cortland, have seen an increase in cases over the past several weeks, according to the SUNY COVID-19 Case Tracker.
Binghamton recently had a 14-day rolling average of 166. Its Fall 2021 Plans state, “The University will continue to offer in-person classes, with no plans to revert to remote learning.”
During that same period, Cortland had a 14-day rolling average of 116. In its Fall 2021 Guidelines, the college states, “Faculty are not expected to provide online or synchronous instruction, but may provide handouts, slides and other material.”
Though colleges have no intentions to return to virtual learning, a majority of students want the remote option to remain available, according to survey results published by Bay View Analytics in partnership with Cengage.
The survey consisted of responses from 772 teaching faculty, 514 academic administrators, and 1,413 students who were registered at a U.S. higher education institution for both fall 2020 and spring 2021.
The results show 73% of students “somewhat” or “strongly” agree that they would like to take some fully online courses in the future. Around 68% of students indicated they would be interested in taking hybrid courses that offer a mix of online and in-person instruction.
Students and faculty also reported that their attitudes toward virtual learning had improved over the past year. 57% of students claim they felt more positive about online learning than before the pandemic.
As colleges grapple with the fast pace of technology, students are battling with the slower pace of traditional classroom learning.