Professors say the return to in-person learning is the first step back to normalcy

Ally Lima, Staff Writer

With COVID-19 cases on campus steadily decreasing, the University community has been rewarded for its progress with the return to in-person classes. For the past three weeks, students and professors have had the ability to choose between conducting classes remote or in socially-distant classrooms. As the positive cases on the dashboard continue to decline since the return to in-person learning on Feb. 22, it’s clear that the University’s relaxation has proven largely successful. While there is no way to be sure that positive cases will not increase again, perhaps in-person classes were not particularly to blame for the spread of COVID-19 throughout campus. There is no question that most of the student body is eager to see their scheduled in-person classes hopefully remain independent of Zoom for the rest of the spring semester. 

Though many professors have decided to continue their classes virtually, others are excited about getting back in the classroom. Political Science Professor Chris Ellis is excited to return to in-person learning; “after doing this for about 10 years, I had completely forgotten how much fun it was to be in a classroom until that experience was taken away. I’ve learned a bunch of new things about how to engage students differently in the past year, and more about Zoom than I wanted to know, but it just doesn’t feel right conducting classes from my office or basement,” Ellis said. 

While Ellis respects the decisions of students and professors who have continued virtual learning, finding that there are advantages to having the option of attending class through Zoom, he feels completely safe in the return to in-person learning and thinks that this is particularly advantageous for discussion-based classes.

Ellis has found that the time spent outside of the classroom has left both professors and students “rusty” in having natural classroom conversations “I’ve gotten worse at leading them, and students are more reluctant to participate in them. I hope that we can get that back,” Ellis said. Getting back into the classroom seems to be the first step in readjusting ourselves to the way we used to learn and collaborate with one another.

Italian Professor Bernhard Kuhn has returned to classroom instruction because he feels that he is personally able to do a better job teaching in person versus online. While Kuhn acknowledges the risks of in-person learning, he agrees that benefits outweigh any potentially adverse outcomes. “Sure, there is always a risk going into the classroom,” Kuhn said. “I try to mitigate that — the first thing I do is open the windows and have the doors open, and of course we disinfect our work spaces.” By implementing safety precautions such as these, professors are able to transition back to in-person teaching in ways that feel the most comfortable for them. 

Of course, there can never be 100 percent support for the loosening of regulations in such a turbulent time. However, it seems that by providing professors with the freedom to conduct classes virtually as well as to modify their in-person teaching styles to fit their own comfort levels, the semester should be able to continue as is. Though college classes may never look exactly the same, the return of in-person learning is able to give students and professors a hint of normalcy.

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