Students and faculty reflect on return from face-to-face classes this semester

This semester, students and faculty returned to complete their first full semester in person in almost two years.

Fall 2019 was the last time UNC had an all-in-person semester. After more than a year of operating remotely, students and faculty have had to adapt to in-person learning, while balancing the new teaching formats brought by the virtual transition.

Diante Fields, a first year majoring in biology, said it was difficult to transition from online learning to in-person classes.

“I would say coming back in person was a bit difficult because this online education is very superficial and for us coming back in person thoroughly is like a whole different atmosphere,” Fields said.

Fields said he enjoys learning online because of the flexibility it gives him in his daily schedule.

“We are tired as students, and we need this flexibility like: can I come to this class asynchronously? “, Said Fields.

To help students adjust to returning in person this semester, some faculty have implemented distance learning options to provide students with a mix of both types of learning.

Victoria Song, a junior specializing in environmental studies and business administration, said these course options strike a good balance between the value of in-person experience and the flexibility of distance learning.

“I think I realized that I really appreciate that some classes are in person but can sometimes work on a hybrid basis,” Song said. “Like you’re sick or something, you can zoom in and the teacher can put you in to classify.”

Some professors have also changed the structure of their courses around the pandemic, especially when it comes to the use of technology.

Alexandra Goldych, a graduate teacher in the Department of Romantic Studies, said she was using online textbooks and powerpoints in her classroom more often than before the pandemic.

“Before COVID in my language class and most of the language classes, we didn’t really use PowerPoint and we were a lot more interactive,” Goldych said.

John Albrite, a graduate professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, said he started using Sakai as a clearinghouse during the pandemic and continued to use it this semester – although his students no longer necessarily need to rely on it. .

Albrite said he generally prefers to teach in person because it allows him to better assess questions or confusion, rather than just talking into a vacuum.

“I feel like being back in person has helped me better assess whether the students understand the class, if they are interested in what we’re talking about,” Albrite said.

In-person learning also enables opportunities that cannot be realized remotely. Fields said being in person has helped him with classes that have a physical learning component.

“As a major bio, you kind of have to be in person, get some hands-on experience in the labs,” Fields said.

Now that most students have returned to campus, more in-person social activities have resumed. However, due to the pandemic, Song said things still don’t look like they used to be.

“Everyone was more social, and now obviously because of COVID there are limits to that,” she said. “I didn’t really make any new friends. I just got closer to my old friends, so I can only imagine how difficult it is for the first few years.”

There were several active COVID-19 clusters on campus at the start of the fall semester. These included clusters at residences like Ehringhaus, Hinton James, Parker and Avery.

Now, according to the UNC COVID-19 dashboard, there were no active clusters in campus housing as of November 28.

According to the Carolina Together website, 94% of students have certified that they are vaccinated, and students 18 and older who have been vaccinated for at least 6 months are now eligible for booster shots in North Carolina.

Those who are not vaccinated should be tested weekly, a precaution in the Carolina Together testing program which has been in place since September 15.

Other precautions include mask requirements, which still apply in classrooms, libraries, dormitory common areas and mess halls.

Despite these differences from a normal year, Fields, Song, Goldych, and Albrite noted the benefits of being back on campus this semester.

“Overall I would say I enjoyed teaching this semester more than when we were away,” Albrite said.

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