Current Affairs Higher Education Teaching

on the decision to teach online in the fall

In the end, when it came down to it, the decision to teach online in the fall was not hard. Many of my colleagues teach courses that cannot be successful without some in-person element (e.g. science labs, theater and dance, filmmaking, many others). Other classes may need to be in-person because they are important for student experience. These range from first-year seminars to graduate courses. But it’s not just about courses, because the public health risks we take here do not occur in a vacuum. 

Students want to regain the social part of the lives, to get together with their friends on campus, in dorms, and in apartments. Businesses on campus and in the community that require in-person participation to function (restaurants, hair salons, gyms, movie theaters, etc.) need to stay open as much as possible. We need to get K-12 schools back open too if we want parents to be able to go back to work. 

All of those things involve some risk, but we are willing as a community to take those risks. If we can do so carefully and responsibly maybe we can make it work, and we won’t head in the other direction.

One of the ways to mitigate risk is to avoid unnecessary ones. So if I am able to teach my class online—because of the content of the course and my experience teaching online—then that’s one less point of risk that makes all the necessary risks we’re taking more manageable. 

I know students want to be back on campus. They would prefer to take my class f2f. I’d prefer to teach it that way. I hope that my students will be able to recognize that my decision to take our class online, while detracting from their in-person experience by not making it possible for our class to meet f2f, is actually intended to support our collective desire to improve our lived experience during the pandemic. 

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