Students advocate for in-person education amidst calls for all-remote learning

With 75 percent of UI classes are now online, many students feel they are missing out on important educational and social aspects of college.


Tate Hildyard

A pair of University of Iowa students leave the nearly deserted Chemistry Building on the first day of the new semester on Monday, August 24th, 2020. Despite the pandemic, campus remains open and some classes are still being held in person.

Clinton Garlock, News Reporter

With under a quarter of University of Iowa courses in-person this semester, many UI students are balancing a hybrid course load, regardless of preference or internet accessibility, causing some students to advocate for in-person instruction.

The UI administration has touted its model’s leave room for “choice” in how students return to learn — online or in-person. COGS, the UI graduate student union, has urged the UI to transition all classes online.

Some students have questioned the UI’s preparedness, some feel the in-person class schedule offers face-to-face interaction with both educators and peers.

COVID-19 has affected college students’ education in a unique way, requiring them to attend classes via Zoom while still paying full tuition for the 2020-21 school year.

UI freshman Kory Rogers, who is studying engineering, said he has found it much harder to learn online with his course load.

“It’s so much harder to learn online-only, and it’s a lot easier to get engaged and stay engaged when you’re in class,” said Rogers.

UI master’s student Grayson Snyder, studying Occupational and Environmental Health, said he acknowledges that being physically present in a school environment is important for his learning, but still believes that the university keeping classes online is in the best interest of the health and safety of the students.

“Having classes online makes it harder to care,” he said. “I could just have my camera off… and I could be completely gone.”

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However, some students would still be willing to take in-person classes if they could. Snyder and UI senior Addy Arthofer, studying Health and Human Physiology Exercise Science, are both taking lab courses that have hands-on components.

“I have to say that I wish that there were more in-person classes,” she said. “I feel like there’s a lot of classes that need to be in-person in order for the students to excel.”

Arthofer said that if she was given a choice between taking an in-person or online class, even if the professor told her the online class would be easier, she would still take the in-person class.

“Even though it’s harder, I feel like my learning would still be a lot better in-person,” Arthofer said. “Connecting with your teachers and being able to ask them questions is a little easier when you can do it in person and sit down and they can explain it to you.”

Rogers said he thinks the university has been doing a good job of following the social distancing guidelines in his in-person classes, and that it would be nice if students were given a choice between in-person and online. He said that whether or not classes stayed online, it wouldn’t affect his choice to continue his education, but that it did sway his decision when he was originally starting college this fall.

Snyder said that if he was an incoming freshman, he wouldn’t have gone to school in this climate.

“But I don’t really have a choice… it’s my last year. I’m not going to take a gap year because that wouldn’t make sense,” Snyder said.

Snyder said he is frustrated with how the university handled the pandemic, and believes the UI downplayed their knowledge of whether classes would remain online for the fall semester to ensure students would attend, in what he called “a cash grab.”

The UI faced $76 million in losses from March through August, and expected another $18.1 million loss in revenue, including a $3.1 million loss in state funding for fiscal 2021. The UI adjusted its tuition calendar for the fall, allowing students to be refunded at least some tuition if they withdraw before Sept. 27, which was done to allow students and families “more flexibility.”

Arthofer said she was happy to learn that Gov. Kim Reynolds had closed the bars in Iowa City on Aug. 27 due to the rising cases on COVID-19 in Johnson County. As of Sept. 4, Johnson County reported 4,356 confirmed positive cases.

“I think it’s kind of hard to ask everyone to throw away their social life when things are there and at their disposal,” Arthofer said.

Snyder added that he feels the university is unfairly putting the responsibility for maintaining health and safety on the students, while still providing an environment for the virus to spread.

“I get it, you can’t force it in-person,” Snyder said. “You can’t force it online, so they’re kind of [screwed] either way. But it definitely could have been done better.