Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed classes to take on a different form in order to minimize the spread of the virus that can occur through in-person contact. Administrators everywhere investigated possible solutions to this as quickly as possible so that students would not lose their learning momentum during the school year.
One solution included conducting class in a synchronous format, in which instructors and students meet online during scheduled times throughout the week. “Holding classes synchronously online was the best solution one could think of during the pandemic and essentially saved students who otherwise might have seen their studying careers disrupted and their graduation delayed,” said Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs & Student Services and Director of Institute for Teaching Excellence Dr. Basil Baltzis.
“However,” he added, “as it was the first time that this approach was followed on a massive scale both at NJIT and a very large number of other institutions, there is now enough data to suggest the approach needs to be further studied and refined if it is to be successful.”
Data show that students, especially at the undergraduate level, encountered problems both in acquiring knowledge but also in delicate domains having to do with mental health. “Until we have a better understanding of the efficacy of synchronous online learning, the university has decided to not offer courses in this modality,” Baltzis stated.
As any rule or policy has its exceptions, Baltzis explained one example that there would be one with the elimination of synchronous courses. If a course is in a specialized area that requires the expertise of a specific faculty member, and this faculty member is away either in a lab performing funded research or for personal reasons, the law requires to accommodate them. “These cases are truly rare, and I cannot see more than a handful of courses offered in the synchronous online modality,” he added.
He emphasized that there is no intent to discontinue online classes: “It is clear that the future of higher education will involve a number of modalities to deliver courses and one of them will be online. As per the accepted definition, online implies asynchronous delivery,” which consists of classes being completely virtual without any scheduled time for instructors and students to meet. Baltzis noted, “The university plans to expand its presence in the online space, especially at the graduate level.”