During one of my professor’s video lectures, I heard a baby cry in the background. It serves as a reminder that students are not the only people impacted by the pandemic and virtual learning. Professors’ adjustments have been just as hard as ours.
The COVID-19 crisis has been stressful, to say the least. Students have been forced to move to online learning, leave their residence halls and grapple with the cancellation of all University events – including Commencement. But the transition has been difficult for more than just students. Administrators, staff, faculty and students have all needed to reevaluate their plans for the spring semester, if not the summer as well. Professors needed to change their course syllabuses, lecture online and move otherwise written assignments and presentations to Blackboard.
It is easy to get frustrated at professors while they adjust to online classes, but students should be cognizant of their struggles during the pandemic and instead show appreciation for them.
Although faculty were optimistic about moving their classes online, professors still needed to redesign their courses to fit the format of online classes. Hiccups should be expected along the way. The transition was rocky for students, as they were forced to move out of their rooms and learn how to take their courses virtually. If the shift was not perfect for students, it probably was not for professors either. They, too, have dealt with the problems of virtual learning, whether that is bad internet connection or dysfunctional tools on Blackboard. They might have struggled to figure out how to hold an online lecture or create an online quiz, and students should be understanding of that. Before students become frustrated that their professors aren’t mastering a smooth transition, they should understand that some faculty were not prepared for online classes in the first place. This is new territory for everyone.
Students are struggling with balancing their home and academic lives, dealing with financial hardship and managing their academic work. Professors could face those same hardships from home. They are forced to teach from the confines of their homes, perhaps distracted by family. In addition to their home and professional duties, some now need to homeschool their children, which requires much of their attention.
There is little students can do to alleviate their professors’ obstacles, but they can demonstrate more understanding and appreciation. Professors will likely take longer to respond to emails and grade assignments. Students may be anxious to receive grades, but they should be patient. Professors might have needed to deal with more personal and pressing priorities in the past few weeks than their students’ assignments.
Surely, professors have made some missteps in their transition that could have negatively impacted students, like keeping assignment deadlines or assigning projects that are now difficult to complete from afar. Instead of labeling them as uncaring, students should understand that their errors likely were not intentional. Professors are doing their best to make the course compatible online, and students should instead communicate about any issues they are facing instead of complaining.
The interaction is a two-way street. Students need to talk to their professors about the accommodations they need, and professors need to be receptive to students’ feedback. Professors can gauge their success in creating an accessible and welcoming learning environment by simply asking their students through a survey or an email. But students should not be mean to their professors, complain to them or ask for assignments to be graded more quickly. This is a first-time experience for everyone, and we need to adapt and show kindness to everyone.
Laya Reddy, a freshman majoring in political science and music, is a columnist.
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This article appeared in the April 16, 2020 issue of the Hatchet.