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Are the Risks of In-person Education During a Global Pandemic Worth It?

By: Nicolas Rontanini

With the prevalence of Covid and schools operating their classes predominately online, everyone has faced challenges when it comes to getting a good education during a pandemic. After being remote for several months, some establishments are opening their doors. People have begun to yearn for a return to in-person learning. However, safety concerns have people discussing whether schools should actually do so.

In-person learning certainly has its advantages in teaching hands-on lessons, particularly for classes that require physical practices in their curriculum (think about art, music and science labs). Many ordinary things that are easier in person are harder remotely--such as keeping schedules--as classes and extracurriculars changed due to the pandemic.

Students are accustomed to a classroom environment and the rules that accompany it. Acclimating to a new and unfamiliar learning environment can be difficult. It tests the focus of students, demands for students and teachers to be comfortable and competent with technology alike, and calls for a level of discipline, which doesn’t come easily to many.

For these reasons, the desire to return to the classroom is understandable. Finding the motivation to keep going was hard enough at times but rushing the return to the classroom may not be the safest option. The Centers for Disease Control has said that “highest risk” lies in returning to normal classing. Even classes that are socially distanced carry the risk of infection.

Perhaps, resuming normal operations is not the safest option right now. Remote learning had no shortage of challenges but is likely a safer alternative at this time. Remote learning still provides the basic functions of the classroom.

Students can log on and learn the same material they would in the classroom, instructors can still hold office hour appointments and help students if they need assistance, and instructors can still provide feedback on assignments.

Remote learning is an effective--albeit difficult--method of learning as the pandemic continues. It allows us to connect with peers and instructors and not have to risk exposing ourselves and our families to COVID.

Unfortunately, some students may not have the same resources at home that their school typically provides them. Income levels and Wi-Fi access suddenly become great determiners in the academic performance of students.

Many students and professors also prefer in-person learning for the more communicative environment a class provides, allowing for better subject comprehension and collaborative work. For this reason, it can be advocated that in-person learning would be more beneficial.

Because both learning styles have their benefits, having the option of only in-person learning or entirely remote learning can be frustrating. For this reason, Adelphi has developed a method that might just work. Some students have returned to campus for the start of classes, some remain at home, classes can be conducted either remotely or in person depending on the needs of students and professors, and some classes will be a combination of in-person and online teaching.

Students who desire a return to the classroom can do so. Students who might not want to return to campus will have the possibility of remaining at home. Adelphi will also be utilizing plexiglass dividers to limit physical contact. This way, people can return to campus while reducing the risk of infection.

My classes this semester are all online, but I have no issues with it. I am willing to give this another chance, as I think we all should. I have no doubt it will prove difficult but returning too soon could lead us back to online learning anyway--and lead us back sooner. If we prioritize health and safety now, we will surpass the pandemic sooner.

I understand that people are anxious to return to normal, but it might not be the right time to do so. I feel the same way, I want nothing more than to get back to the way things were. But we have to be patient and considerate for a while longer. This too shall pass, but it is better to persevere through the difficulty now. It’s like the cheesy commercials say: we may be alone, but we’re alone together.

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