After his classes were mostly in person, he said, he had to drop his extracurricular activities and his grades suffered. The best approach, in his opinion, would be to “let people choose ‘how to take their classes,’ because we now have the infrastructure in place that allows us to record classes and have them in person for people who learn best each way,” he said.
Remote and recorded lessons can also allow students who work or care for children to fit school into their schedule. Ahlam Atallah, a senior at UTA, said the online courses allowed him to take lessons while his two children were at home. She also didn’t have to commute or find parking on the sprawling suburban campus.
But she found that taking classes at home divided her attention. “You can’t talk about that novel you’re reading when you have a 2-year-old running around asking, ‘Mom, mum, can I have a snack?'” Ms Atallah said. Over the past school year, with both children in school in person, she went to almost all of her classes in person, even those with recorded lessons. In the classroom, she said, “I can give my full attention to the class, my teacher and my classmates. »
For most students, including those with children, being in person helps them focus and excel. Mr. Vancil told me that he had already developed good learning habits by the time he arrived at university. In my experience, most students didn’t. And so it’s worrying to hear students calling for more distance learning and more flexibility. They demand conditions under which they are, on average, more likely to fail.
Some instructors take on extra work to provide students with opportunities to bridge the learning gap. Dr Walsh described his workload as “astronomical, exhausting”. Dr. Austin has allowed students to rewrite papers in the past, but she has extended the policy to exams. She found that many more students needed to rewrite their assignments. She felt that scoring rewrites “doubled” her workload. But, she added, “If I didn’t do the rewrites, I would have more people failing my classes.”
Because it is the students whose education is at stake, they bear a great deal of responsibility in reshaping their ability to learn. But faculty members and administrators must provide students with an environment that encourages intellectual habits such as curiosity, honesty, and participation in a research community. These habits are not only the means of a good education; to a large extent they are education.
To build a culture that will foster such habits, colleges could learn from what may seem an unusual source: the University of Dallas, a small Catholic university with a big-book program and a reputation for conservatism. Several of his professors told me that the nationwide learning blackout just isn’t happening there.