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Asynchronous Classes Must Be The Last Resort For Professors

It’s been almost a year since the coronavirus pandemic upturned the lives of students everywhere.

At first, online classes felt eerie, like we were suddenly dropped in some sort of alternate universe. Now, this once-foreign concept feels strangely normal.

Having an in-person class this semester is a rarity reserved for majors like nursing that can’t get by without in-person instruction. Honestly, even having a class with an actual Zoom meeting time feels like a luxury nowadays. As my college education gets more isolated and live instruction fades into the distance, I realize now more than ever the value of a quality college education.

Generally, asynchronous classes do not create a quality education. While these classes allow for a more flexible schedule, they also completely eliminate the collaborative and interactive aspects of learning — two critical components of college curriculums.

Three of my five classes are virtual this semester, and the professors don’t even pre-record lectures. I log onto Canvas only to be directed to a third-party website, e-textbook, or Powerpoint presentation that was made in 2012. I then teach myself the material and take a quiz, or complete an assignment that is graded by a professor who has no idea who I am.

Why am I paying full tuition to read information that I could have found myself on the internet, only to be graded based on how well I taught myself that information?

Anyone can write down information from a textbook. Anyone can send a link to an article. Anyone can create quiz questions. You don’t need a Ph.D. to do those things. It’s the passion for the subject, the personal experiences, the class discussions, and the enthusiasm behind their words that make professors so influential in students’ lives.

When these aspects are removed, there’s little value left in the professor—the course might as well be taught by a robot. If the professor doesn’t even want to teach me about the subject they’ve dedicated their life to, why should I bother to learn it? If they don’t make the effort, why should I?

The world is weird right now, and I understand that professors have their own lives. They have families to care for and tasks to get done outside of the (virtual) classroom that can make live Zooms unmanageable. However, I hope professors aren’t making their courses asynchronous just because they can. Asynchronous classes should be a last resort. If a professor needs to make their class asynchronous, students should be financially compensated accordingly.

A completely virtual class might make the professor’s life a little easier, but it strips students of the quality education they expect, deserve, and pay for. As asynchronous classes become the new normal, the value of a Penn State degree diminishes. If you were about to get life-threatening surgery, would you rather be operated on by a surgeon who was mentored by someone who has been in the field for 30 years, or a surgeon who skimmed the textbook? Exactly.

Penn State professors are what make the university so impressive. Without them, we’re just another football school. From using social media to connect with students to having snack time during class, many professors have done a stellar job adapting to online learning. Keeping the passion alive through Zoom University might be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

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About the Author

Grace Cunningham

Grace is a junior advertising major and one of Onward State’s social media editors. She is also a co-host of our podcast, Podward State. Grace hails from Chatham, New Jersey—no, she doesn’t know Snooki, and yes, she will fight you if you tell her that Pennsylvania bagels are good. Grace loves buffalo chicken, the Yankees, and watching Cake Boss. Follow her on Twitter @gecunningham7 or email her at [email protected] if you can get her an internship.

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