UMN students express reservations and highlights about online classes amid first in-person semester since start of pandemic

Students voiced their opinions, from frustration to satisfaction, on the wide range of class formats available at the University this semester.

Student+Jenna+Hill+poses+for+a+portrait+on+Wednesday%2C+Oct.+6.

Alice Bennett

Student Jenna Hill poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Gabrielle Lombard

University of Minnesota students are weighing in on the value of their classes since the return to in-person education this semester, with some students saying they are satisfied, while others are left wanting more.

Although the majority of classes are now taught in-person, many still remain online in a wide variety of formats. But after more than a year of online education due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and calls for tuition to be lowered, students said they are unsure how to value their current classes.

Generally, students said they enjoy their in-person experiences, while others expressed their dissatisfaction with online classes, whether they are taught synchronously or not. Some students chose to take online classes this semester for increased flexibility or to accommodate other aspects of their life. Some classes are only offered online.

According to some students, some class modalities were shifted from in-person to online by professors due to health concerns right before the semester began.

In comparison to in-person classes prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, third-year student Lauren Smithberg said she believes the current semester was not the same as a “normal tuition semester,” due to online classes still occurring and the COVID-19 precautions still in place.

Smithberg said while social distancing precautions are important to mitigate the spread COVID-19, they have made it more difficult to be engaged during in-person classes and take part in discussions or group work.

Third-year University student Korinn Delaney, who transferred to the University in fall 2020, said she misses the connection with professors and peers, and classes are less interactive when they are online.

“I have no interaction or one-on-one interaction with my teachers, and it’s very impersonal so even though we’re technically in-person, it doesn’t feel like I’m getting my full money’s worth because I’m not getting the full experience and connectedness of regular college,” Delaney said.

On the other hand, second-year student Jack Anderson said his first semester of in-person classes is fulfilling his expectations, despite having one online course.

“It’s definitely a whole lot better than last year with everything being online, but I kind of wish I just didn’t have an online class at all,” Anderson said. “At least with an in-person lecture I can still directly ask a question or stay afterwards to ask the professor a question, but when it comes to online lectures with 250 people in a Zoom it’s impossible to have your voice heard.”

Professors are teaching classes this semester in many different formats, from asynchronous courses to synchronous Zoom lectures and even in-person classes where the professor teaches from Zoom. Also, some classes that remain in-person are offering flexible options for students who prefer to attend online.

“I feel like professors are making more of an effort to make lectures more inclusive and accessible to people who aren’t comfortable coming in-person,” Delaney said. “All of my lectures that are in-person post recorded lectures afterwards so you really could be taking the course online if you wanted to.”

In third-year student Jenna Hill’s art class, students are split between two classrooms, while the professor teaches over Zoom. During the class, students are put into breakout rooms for discussion with people who may be located across the room from them.

“I’ve never talked to someone in-person in that class, it’s always been on the computer,” Hill said. “I see it more as a chore since it’s always online and we don’t really want to interact with people.”

For third-year student Kameela Douiyssi, the structure of online classes makes it feel as though students are teaching themselves.

“You have to make sure to keep up with the discussion posts every week, but you really just have to go to Canvas and figure it out [on your own],” Douiyssi said about her asynchronous history class. “It’s basically the same as if I would take an online class at a community college and that’s way cheaper.”

Although students have expressed their frustrations with select classes remaining online and in-person classes being different from before the pandemic, generally students said they are happy to have some classes in-person and return to some sense of normalcy this semester.

“I believe I’m getting my money’s worth with my in-person classes because I feel like the professors are actually giving me something that’s worth paying for,” Delaney said. “This year is better because we are back on campus and even though we have masks, it is helpful to be in-person and present and see people.”