Online Classes: The New Norm?

The concept of virtual learning is more wide-spread now than ever before. Many are wondering about colleges or universities’ stance on these online classes and if this will become the new norm—so we asked the experts at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) what they thought about online classes, and how they are affecting the students and the university. Here’s what they had to say!

The Pros of Online Learning

Before the onset of the COVID-19, the vast majority of AuburnUniversity at Montgomery’s coursework was offered in-person. However, the challenges presented by the pandemic require universities to be flexible in accommodating the needs of students while also prioritizing safety.

While they resumed in-person instruction for the Fall 2020 semester, each of their courses includes a remote component. Most of these courses feature alternative access to course materials to accommodate students who may be apprehensive about returning to an in-person course or individuals who have to isolate due to health reasons.

Classroom technology, in most cases, allows course presentations through real-time live-streaming, allowing for live interaction between instructions and online and in-person students. This also allows faculty to more effectively manage larger classes while also adhering to social distancing guidelines. A class that meets two days a week can be split, with half of the students participating in-person and half online on alternating days.

The Numbers

AUM reported an increase in undergraduate enrollment and a 23% increase in graduate enrollment. They also noted their demand for on-campus housing remained high.

During the Fall 2020 semester, more than 390 different course offerings were available exclusively online while others were offered in a “hybrid” format that blends in-person instruction with online interaction. This is particularly useful for lab-based courses where it may be difficult to replicate the hands-on learning experiences in a virtual format.

While the majority of students desire in-person learning and a campus-based experience, interest in online learning remains strong. Of more than 5,000 Fall semester students, more than900 opted for online-only learning.

The primary benefits for students during the pandemic are two-fold:

  • Convenience remains paramount, just as it did in the past. Having the option of *synchronous or *asynchronous learning is particularly appealing if you’re working full-time or perhaps are a parent to children who may be virtual students themselves.
  • The other facet is peace of mind for students who may be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to risk factors or who may have caregiver responsibilities at home.

*synchronous learning– real-time interaction between instructors and students

*asynchronous learning– online courses that do not occur in real-time

Performance & Participation

There is a misconception that virtual delivery means a compromise in quality. The two should not be mutually exclusive. The AUM Warhawks know that the keys to “protecting the nest” and minimizing disruptions to the educational experience are:

  1. Cover your beak–wear a mask.
  2. Watch your wingspan–observe social distancing.

AUM continues to provide holistic support through such entities as the Warhawk Academic Success Center—a one-stop-shop for tutoring and other academic support services—as well as Counseling & Health Promotion Services and Warhawk Health Services. Each of AUM’s offices focusing on student support offer in-person, as well as virtual, service to students.

Tips to Perform Your Best

  • Know thy self. Most students are “digital natives,” members of a generation that do not know life without the internet or portable technology. Even though so many of these students are fluent in smart technology, some will thrive more naturally in in-person rather than online settings.
  • Communication is key. While online learning requires a disciplined approach and a positive mindset, communication is key. Students must be willing to speak up with questions or reach out to professors if they have difficulty grasping a particular concept.
  • Use your resources. At most schools, online students have access to the same support systems and resources as on-campus students. For AUM, that can include virtual office hours appointments with professors, mock interviews with the Career Development Center, or subject-specific tutoring through the Warhawk Academic Success Center.

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