Let’s face it: if you’re reading this, you have probably been affected in one way or another by the phenomenon we’ve come to know as “online learning.” Whether in the form of “synchronous online,” “asynchronous online” or “converged learning,” the idea of taking classes at your computer or phone instead of in the classroom has become a staple of college life during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, as the fall semester grows closer and NJIT continues to outline their plans to return to in-person learning as the primary teaching modality, it would seem that the days of online learning are behind us. Naturally, then, it’s probably time to say goodbye to twice-weekly Webex sessions in favor of the true classroom experience… but I think there is significant reasoning behind letting them stay.
As much as I personally struggle with learning from home, I’m genuinely hoping that, at the very least, the option is here to stay. For one, I think that many instructors and students are finally starting to “hit their stride,” with both the technological and social aspects of distance learning. After over a full year of training, conditioning and practice, the community is really getting the hang of this online learning business. This isn’t to say that there aren’t issues, but Information Services and Technology, the administration, faculty and students have all risen to the challenge and, in my opinion, have made a ton of progress. It would be a shame to see all of that go away.
There are a few practical benefits too for retaining some level of online learning. For example, NJIT caters in various ways to working adults and other nontraditional students in the form of evening classes. Wouldn’t it be nice if those students, if they wished, could take those courses from anywhere? That was the ethos of Converged Learning from all the way back in 2013 when the concept was first introduced. With the university continuing to serve nontraditional students such as with NJIT@JerseyCity, a satellite campus for graduate-level computing degrees, it seems only natural to offer an online or converged option for those groups post-pandemic. It isn’t just non-traditional students either who could benefit from a limited online learning option. With 77% of students living off-campus in the Fall 2019 semester, I’m sure plenty of them would love to avoid traffic by taking courses at home.
Like I said before, while I personally hope for a continued option of online learning for those who prefer it and could benefit from it, I am beyond excited to return to the classroom
, or at the very least, back to campus. I know that my personal mental health took a toll over the last year both from the added stresses of a fully remote course load and from not being able to see the people I care about. For those who feel similarly, I hope next semester gives you the opportunity to catch up with both the people you’ve missed and your academics. For everyone else, though, I hope that this isn’t a “goodbye” to online learning, but a “see you later.”