As students continue to adjust to the pressures and expectations of online classes, and articles with headlines that praise professors’ responses to their students’ struggles begin to surface (like this one), it becomes increasingly important to make sure that we begin to pivot and identify the professors who may not be responding to their students’ concerns and demand that they do better.
Over the past few weeks, we have heard of professors requiring students to log on to WebEx during exams so students can be personally monitored. We have heard of professors increasing students’ workloads to compensate for the lack of actual class time. We have heard of professors who cannot be contacted over email to discuss classwork, extensions or even advising.
Even now, not all departments across campus have released their official policies on accepting a Pass/Fail designation for courses related to major requirements, leaving many students in the dark about all of their options for the rest of the semester.
And since these issues are not always the fault of the professor, we believe that administrators, along with the deans of each college, need to set sweeping guidelines that span departments to ensure students are receiving the most respect and leniency this unprecedented time demands.
To begin, administrators need to set a deadline by which departments need to announce their intentions to accept or not accept a Pass/Fail grade. Some departments have already decided but have not yet made an announcement, causing confusion within the student body, some of whom may have received information about the department’s decision from individual professors. There is no reason to hold onto a decision like this, especially for weeks at a time.
We urge administrators and the deans to require professors to suspend attendance requirements for synchronous work. Many students do not have reliable access to the internet or have jobs that prevent them from joining class at regularly scheduled times, while other students have been displaced to different time zones and now have to join a WebEx call at odd hours in order to get a check mark next to their attendance grade for the day.
We understand that professors are also facing increased pressure from students, administrators and their own colleagues. Professors do not have to place additional pressure on themselves and their students by adhering to the classroom’s schedule. Many of the professors that students have told us are doing the best are the ones uploading video or audio files reviewing the material that a student can watch or listen to at their convenience.
Online classes will never be in-person classes, and professors don’t have to force their classes to simulate in-person learning.
Finally, we ask professors to ask your students for feedback and to adjust your courses accordingly. This is not the time to be shy. This is a time to really listen to the needs of your students and strip your course down to its basic fundamentals.
Your worlds will not end if you reduce your assignments or show some leniency, but your students’ might if you don’t.