Ashleigh Crouch, Correspondent
Over the summer, JSU officials announced that all classes in the fall 2020 semester would either be hybrid — partly online, partly in-person — or 100% online.
Many professors are even offering an online option, such as a recorded lecture, on in-person class days for students that cannot or do not feel comfortable coming to class in person due to COVID-19 related concerns.
Though, it may seem as if COVID-19 would naturally disrupt attendance, many professors argue that students are still keeping up with their assignments, and that learning is still taking place.
Andrea Porter, JSU’s head of the Department of English, said that although she has not had all of her students in class on a given day, she still believes her students are engaged and learning.
“Even though this is definitely a different kind of semester, I have found all my students engaged and ready to work – whether they’re able to attend in person or virtually – and they are all keeping up with their assignments well,” said Porter.
Jan Case, JSU’s head of the Department of Mathematical, Computing and Information sciences, said many students seem to be “thriving” in a hybrid and online class environment due to the flexibility it provides.
Having recorded lectures, Case said, seems to be beneficial for students who attend in-person and those who do not, because it allows them to process the lectures in “chunks” at their own pace.
“A student can miss a synchronous meeting, and still obtain something very close to the experience through the recording and the posted class information,” said Case. “So should we count the absence in the same way? It at least seems like we shouldn’t. The object is to receive an education. The time and place matter less than one might think.”
Case explained that her students are comfortable with speaking out in virtual class, often utilizing the “raise your hand” feature in Microsoft Teams and adding comments to the chat.
“We’re all learning new ways to adapt, and I’ve gotten some very helpful suggestions from my students,” she said. “In my opinion, students are doing a great job of keeping up with their classwork. Everything feels new and different, but we’re working through it together.”
Some departments are also not enforcing the strict attendance policies they have had in the past.
For example, in the past, the School of Education has had a 90 percent attendance policy in previous semesters, meaning that in the past students have had to be present for 90 percent of class meetings in order to pass any given course in the School of Education.
This semester, however, the School of Education is giving students much more leeway due to COVID-19. Students are not penalized for missing class due to being in quarantine or isolation, and are in fact being encouraged to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19, or if they themselves or someone they live with is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.
Staci Stone, JSU’s dean of the school of arts and humanities, said that while attendance has not been an issue in her own classes, if attendance is down in other classes meeting in-person, it is most likely because students are following guidelines and not attending class if they have been exposed to or have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Our faculty are working with those students, so that they can still be successful in class,” said Stone.