With the end of the first semester back with a higher number of in-person classes, now seems like the perfect time to reflect on how this semester went, the things we learned from going to class in a pandemic that struck the world, and what we might hope for in the coming spring semester.
For many students, the year and a half we all spent living with pandemic health restrictions has taken up a good chunk of our university journey. The connections that we could have made in these first undergraduate years and the opportunities and friendships we could have discovered were ripped from our grasp as we stayed in our homes and studied in isolation.
Coming back to in-person classes was an exciting and anticipated change, but there was also anxiety. The first week of classes was filled with anxious thoughts of what to expect in the classroom, speaking to peers you have been in classes with online but never met in-person, and introducing yourself to instructors who might know your name but don’t recognize you.
The interaction and connections we can make with both our instructor and peers make in-person classes so special. That aspect of socializing around class was removed, almost completely, with the online learning model. There is a joy — that you don’t get when studying from home — that comes with being surrounded by like-minded people, and participating in discussions that you couldn’t have through Big Blue Button or Zoom. This semester brought back the things a lot of newer students have missed out on, and it was kind of magical.
I hope this continues into the spring semester. Kwantlen Polytechnic University announced they would be having more in-person classes, which is great news.
However, we shouldn’t abandon the hybrid model and online classes to accommodate students who may not have the scheduled time or feel completely comfortable returning to campus. This is expected and understandable, and we shouldn’t forget about the convenience and stress-free aspect of online classes that some students prefer. Some spring semester classes may work much better if they adapt to a hybrid model or remain online, which would be best for both students and faculty alike.
Since hybrid courses will still be taking place, one way to improve KPU students’ experience could be to focus on finding ways to help encourage social interaction in between classes. Providing better ways for students to interact and make connections with each other outside of group project assignments will help reduce the feelings of isolation students have when learning in these class formats.
This semester was the first step in trying to put online-only learning behind us, and in many ways it was successful in trying to get back to offering the university life that all students should experience. The plan for more in-person classes for next semester is exciting, and after this semester, I have no doubt there will be some great learning taking place.