This morning I was reading the morning news and saw an article on how Northeastern is being sued by students for inferior online teaching. I am not going to take a position on what Northeastern is doing as far as teaching online goes and how prepared or not their faculty were when they asked them to transfer their courses to online because I am not familiar with the university’s online platform. From what I understand, Northeastern is one of the many universities being sued by their students.
The question is why? Why are students suing their universities? What are their expectations? Are faculty not working up to their usual standards?
I have no doubt that the majority of faculty if not all of them have been working a lot more than they usually do to compensate for having to transfer and teach online in order to assist students in successfully completing the semester because as educators this is what we do help, educate, and guide students. So, have their teaching standards dropped? No, it has not dropped, it changed to accommodate the online modality. You cannot go from a high standard of teaching on campus to a low one because you are teaching online.
So, what is wrong? Why do students feel that they are not getting what they paid for? The article I read did not say. I think that many students like faculty and administration do not understand that teaching online versus on campus is not the same thing.
As far as the faculty are concerned, I believe that when they transferred their courses online, they did a great job and all of the material is there that they were going to teach in class. But in what format? You cannot use the same teaching tools online that you used in-class. It doesn’t work trust me I have tried. In the early years of online teaching despite my best efforts, I did have a few teaching fails and learned from them but unlike my colleagues, throughout the US I had time to hone my online teaching skills.
Also, you cannot just use zoom and lecture non-stop until the end of the semester as the students will be exhausted from all the live online lectures. There must be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities such as zoom lectures with online activities and e-learning lectures. Something that most faculty did not have time to create as you need to search to find the software you think might work, learn how to use it, and then design and create the material. Time instructors did not have.
That is where the administration comes in. As they didn’t understand the amount of work it takes to create and set up an online course. Two weeks is not a realistic amount of time for faculty that are starting from scratch to be able to design and create an online course let alone several. At this point, I think that the majority of admins are finally understanding what it takes for faculty to go online as I am sure they have heard back from their faculty about the challenges they are facing.
Finally, let me talk about the students, most have no idea what it means to be taking a full load of courses online. Sure, they have taken an online course a few times. That’s different. So that is why they probably feel that the work their professors are doing is an inferior job. Taking a full load of courses online means that the students need to step up and be responsible for a lot more than they ever had to. Why? because now they need to log in and find things as there is no professor at the front of the class to answer questions as they are looking at their phones checking their social media status and how many likes they got on Tik Tok. They need to remember to get on zoom, make sure they have a good working computer, fast internet connection, and actually take notes. When they have a question, they need to log in to their online platform to post a question that might take their professor more than twenty-four hours to respond. This creates stress and tension for students because they think that they should get a response immediately, they don’t realize that their instructor might also be overwhelmed by the fact that s/he was not planning on teaching online for half a semester and is now trying to figure out how to teach in this new platform while teaching. So, suddenly life became a lot more complicated than it was before the quarantine.
The bottom line is that students have to take charge of their own learning and work independently and figure things out on their own. Of course, that is easier said than done. It is difficult for them because they are not ready. This is not how they were taught in K-12. I say this because as a mother of a nine-year-old boy 4th grade has been a difficult year for him long before COVID-19. The teachers realized that children are not able to be more in charge of their own learning and day as a result for the last few years they have begun asking students to use agendas to write down their schedules. So, since September I watched my son struggle to figure out how to remember to write things down in his agenda and to also make sure to look at his agenda. This has been painful for me and him, but I had to let him fall on his face several times in the hope that he will learn and become more responsible for his own learning. These are life skills that many of my students do not have. One reason for this could be that they came from a different country or their school system just didn’t think it was important enough at the time. But like everything else education and curricula evolves and changes to reflect the needs of the students to help them succeed hence the change in my son’s school.
The other problem most college students are facing is that it is hard to have to go from an in-class learning experience to an on-line learning one and be expected to perform the same. Which are my grading standards have eased and it is easier to get a pass/fail this semester.
Let’s not forget that students are locked up in a house with their parents which cannot be easy nor stress-free for them as they also had to leave their dorms or apartments and their friends behind. Physiologically they are stress out and tired of this new way of living and going to school. Their lives have changed, and they don’t know when they are going back to school. For now, everyone in higher ed will stay online for the foreseeable future and that is not easy for college students to accept. Eventually and hopefully by the fall semester, we will all be on-campus teaching and learning, but it won’t be the same. I don’t think that we can ever go back to the pre-quarantine time. I see education evolving and changing in ways we never thought it would.
What do you think?