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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Students voice concern about online instruction for fall semester

ecampus
Cassie Stricker
ecampus

With Howdy crashing when fall open registration began on July 27, as well as a history of eCampus failures during midterms and finals, Texas A&M’s technical issues have created student distrust toward the upcoming online instruction.
Communication senior Auva Saghafi said while her asynchronous summer classes were better suited for an online format than her classes in the spring, she still feels she isn’t learning as much as she would with in-person classes.
“A big part of this is because I don’t feel as engaged,” Saghafi said. “It’s so easy to get distracted when at home, and because it doesn’t feel like a classroom, it doesn’t even really feel like I’m in class.”
Communication senior Keeli Escover said she is primarily concerned with the difference in time-management and time-consumption compared to in-person classes.
“Because four out of my five classes are all online, I will be spending most of my time reviewing and reading lectures on my laptop,” Escover said. “Based on last semester, this is less ideal for me because it requires much more time for less overall learning.”
Telecommunication media studies senior Sara VanDivier said based on how Howdy crashes during registration periods, she has no idea how it is going to be able to handle 50 percent online classes this semester.
“I would imagine extended test days or days to turn in homework assignments won’t be rare,” VanDivier said. “Honestly, this looks like it’s going to be trial and error for most of us.”
Though online instruction can be improved, Escover said she likes the flexibility that is offered through web-based courses.
“I wish there were some way to make it more like in-person classes by having more interaction, but Zoom is probably the best we can get,” Escover said. “As long as you are somewhat disciplined, then you can take it upon yourself to construct a schedule around whatever you might have.”
VanDivier said she is hopeful that online instruction in the fall will be less stressful for her and will allow for an eventual return to normal campus life.
“It’s also nice that I don’t have to rush from West Campus to Main Campus in 10 minutes,” VanDivier said. “But overall, I would prefer in class instruction in a COVID-free world where I can meet fellow Aggies!”
Saghafi said she hopes A&M would be understanding of people’s circumstances if there is another incident similar to the July Howdy registration and be flexible with students that encounter these uncontrollable factors. 
“Not everyone has resources that allow them to easily participate in online classes,” Saghafi said. “These times are not fair to those students, the least that TAMU can do is to be understanding and work with its students to help everyone have a successful semester.” 

Assistant Provost for the Office of Academic Innovation, Dr. Jocelyn Widmer said that the faculty have been working hard over the summer to ensure they are prepared to deliver quality instruction when classes begin on August 19. Widmer said the level of commitment they are seeing in the Office for Academic Innovation faculty training sessions is quite inspiring and unlike anything they have ever seen.

“Faculty are dedicating a remarkable amount of time to ensuring they are confident using the learning technologies to bring their course content to life, no matter how courses are delivered,” Dr.Widmer said. “The Office for Academic Innovation is encouraging faculty to use one of our two learning management systems (eCampus and Canvas), along with Zoom, to provide consistency for the student experience. These are good practices no matter how instruction is delivered – face-to-face, remote, or online.”

When asked about how confident the A&M Division of Information Technology (IT) is about handling 50 percent online instruction for this upcoming semester, a university representative said they have been working all summer to enhance the campus’s distance learning structure. 

“The Division of IT spent the summer preparing for the return of in-person classes this fall by outfitting many non-traditional areas with enhanced Wi-Fi as A&M expands its classroom footprint to lessen the spread of COVID-19,” the statement read. “We also provided an outdoor wireless solution to help the Department of Residence Life process students during move-in week.”
If students are experiencing any technical difficulties with online instruction, the Division of IT’s Help Desk Central (HDC) is open and available to help with any technological issues. Students can contact the HDC anytime, day or night.

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