Opinion | In person classes should be appreciated more

In person classes should not be taken for granted, as its alternatives pose detrimental effects to students.


Jeff Sigmund

Classroom 105 in the English-Philosophy Building sits empty on Aug. 28, 2020.

Kyle Tristan Ortega, Opinions Columnist

With spring break just around the corner, everyone has something to get excited about. You could have plans with friends and family, or maybe get some much-needed personal time off. Personally, I’m just glad I got to spend six weeks learning in physical classrooms again.

It’s easy to take the little things for granted, but I hope our access to in-person learning isn’t one of those things. Looking back on two years of virtual classes, my experience was anything but pleasant. The online-only system of learning implemented during the peak of the pandemic was detrimental to students.

Because of the circumstances at the start of the pandemic, my classmates and I did not have other options besides virtual classes. Recently, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an easing of restrictions in non-high-risk communities, which means less masks requirements and gathering restrictions. Iowa City is labeled as a medium risk community so we can be less cautious — but we should still be cautious nonetheless, considering what the alternative is.

The worst thing about learning online was the isolation. With schools closed because of COVID-19, the most one-on-one interaction you could get with a peer or professor was having an open webcam. This obviously couldn’t replace physical interactions, and feelings of loneliness and isolation became a prevalent issue.

There are studies that note how these feelings are detrimental to one’s physical and mental well-being. More evidence comes in the form of a survey that shows 53 percent of K-12 students’ parents want hybrid classes for their children, 37 percent want in-person only, and only 9 percent want fully online learning, with mental health issues and learning difficulties being the main reason for these statistics.

With regards to learning difficulties, it could be chalked up to laziness. However, isolation has been proven to cause increased rates of cognitive degradation. This essentially means you will have difficulty staying motivated and active if you’re lonely, which is a problem that virtual learning and quarantine protocols exacerbate.

As opposed to this, in a physical setting, students are shown to be more engaged during discussions, which leads to being motivated. Though the study showed that students who learned online and in-person scored similarly on a test, the data collected suggests a higher desire for in-person classes regardless.

Needless to say, spending freshman year in an online setting was a horrible experience, and one that I never want to deal with again.

Coming back to the present, I can confidently say that in-person learning is better in every possible regard than virtual learning. You would think that as a transfer student with barely any friends, I’d continue to struggle with loneliness and isolation. But that has not been the case, which is a testament to the effectiveness of face-to-face classes in comparison to its alternatives.

Having to get ready in the morning, walking around campus, and being in rooms filled with real people are aspects of being a student that I have missed beyond words. It is important to recognize and appreciate the value in-person classes offer by continuing to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, ensuring our continued enjoyment of this mode of learning.

Though COVID-19 cases in the state of Iowa have been decreasing, we must remain vigilant considering that failure to do so would result in returning to virtual learning, as the experience can be detrimental to one’s physical and mental well-being.

Considering that some students are still subjected to virtual learning, the opportunity to learn in-person should not be taken for granted.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.