After the events of last year, coming to campus and starting in-person classes seemed like a nice return to normalcy. Though we still have to wear masks, it is nice to meet people and make connections, even when you are connecting over your mutual confusion within a class. However, something very astonishing occurred to me as I got out of my warm bed while the sky was still dark to walk to my 8 a.m. class: I missed virtual classes.
It sounds strange to me even now. Last year, the impersonal classes over Zoom were liked by very few. Sometimes the links didn’t work. Sometimes you forgot you weren’t muted. Sometimes you forgot your camera did nothing for your face. And yet, there were some parts that now seem better. Not having to account for walking time when setting your alarm for a morning class. Being able to pause lectures or watch them at double speed. Not having to raise your hand. But most importantly, having flexibility in when to do work.
Although every person has a different learning style, I have often found that lecturing in person does not seem greatly necessary. During in-person lectures, I often find myself sitting there in silence, scribbling notes and trying my best to not zone out. It can be difficult to truly process the information, making me wish I could pause the lecture for a moment. True, my inability to pay attention could stem from the alarming trend of shortening the attention span do to the barrage of the content we process daily. Nevertheless, being able to take a break and absorb information at my own pace now seems invaluable.
Moreover, I believe in-person meetings should be focused on collaborative and discussion-based learning – learning that must be done in person. I have found that going through problems or working on projects in person is most beneficial to my learning. This style of learning, deemed “flipped learning,” has become more popular over the last couple of years. In a 2016 study, researchers found students using the flipped learning method did better on assessments than those who learned the traditional way – in this case, lectures. In many ways, flipped learning appears to be a healthy blend of pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 learning. It allows students to listen to lectures on their own time, when they feel most attentive while also giving them the opportunity to ask questions, solve problems and build connections. Yes, as I mentioned before, this learning style may not work for everyone; however, it is an option that allows for increased flexibility and potential for growth.
Unsurprisingly, this wish for flexibility is not only occurring on college campuses. Though unemployment was at an all-time high during the COVID-19 pandemic, as normalcy begins to return, more and more people fight the return to the pre-COVID-19 work-life system. A recent Forbes article states the percentage of people leaving jobs, 2.7% is higher than we saw in 2000. It is apparent that many have become used to the flexibility and found that they can do their jobs, and do it well, from home. Without a commute and closer to their loved ones.
Perhaps it is true. We will never again return to the way things were before COVID. But perhaps, as in this case, that can be a good thing. We can take from both times to create a new and better system. It is sad, that we may never have what we had before. But trying to push society back to that ‘normalcy’ is not the answer. COVID has unearthed many flaws within the system of society, the schooling system is but one. If we push ourselves back to what we had before without ever considering what we should keep from the times of COVID or change from the time before, we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice.