My masters program was supposed to be in person. Due to the pandemic and then some political strife, campus didn't reopen until I had finished all my courses. Luckily, the school was already launching hybrid and online options when the pandemic hit the country, so the hardware and software were in place already.
-flexibility for working students and students with families to care for
-ability for professors to be abroad or in other parts of the country (I had an excellent South African professor for one of my courses)
-ability for students to be anywhere (I started my first course from the States before my move)
-saved transportation costs
-saved time with no commute
-since I was studying in my 2nd language, no one could see if I looked confused (I could use a translation page or dictionary to confirm word meanings or look up a word I heard or needed to say)
-difficult to develop close relationships with professors
-very little collaboration with other students outside of assigned group work since there aren't many organic ways for study groups to form when not in person
-group projects and breakout discussions can be awkward when you can't see one another (even with video on, it isn't natural body language and there is no eye contact)
-since I was studying in my 2nd language, no one could see if I looked confused (they couldn't rephrase or slow down by the visual cues)
I had one in-person session with a classmate and the Maestro that was overseeing our so-called "credit by exam" course which was actually credit by project for us. In that one session at Starbucks at the end of my program, I felt closer to anyone than I had the whole year and a half of my program. From there I went to the celebration of the liberation of our campus, and I almost cried because, for the first time, I really felt like I was a part of the student body and the university as a whole. (I felt dumb when I realized I was getting watery-eyed, but there is something really powerful about a group of people with a shared experience coming together like that.)
I think there are benefits to being in person. I'm sad I didn't get that option as originally planned. There also also benefits to the option to be hybrid or remote. It all depends on what your priorities are. I got my Masters abroad, so part of what I'd looked forward to in the cultural exchange was lost by being online. I still got to experience it some outside of the university and to a lesser extent in online classrooms, but it wasn't the same.
For work, I like to predominately be in the office, but I enjoy the flexibility to sometimes work from home. There is so much bonding and collaboration that happens in the day-to-day in the office that doesn't happen online or remote. I enjoy my coworkers, and I wouldn't want a job where they felt as much like strangers as my online classmates and professors did.
Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
Sent: 09-12-2022 10:56 AM
From: Christopher Seigel
Subject: "Attendance Is Mandatory" - Should It Be?
I was having a discussion recently about certain schools not offering remote access to classes. I am curious as to whether or not people who have experienced it find it to be comparable to being physically present in class. With the availability of tools such as digital tablets and software for sharable screens, I can think of many benefits of remote learning, and maybe a few drawbacks as well.
I can imagine that certain professors make attendance mandatory for a similar reason that certain people doubt the effectiveness of remote-learning: they believe you need to prove your presence via participation in order to learn.
I have found that the converse to this belief are students who view college as a transaction of "money for degree." Some feel that not only should they not have to be an active participant in class, but they should not have to attend class at all – as long as they can pass the tests. (this statement ignores classes with laboratory components)
I can see the reasoning behind both point of views. On one hand, a professor may explain that everything they want to teach cannot be reasonably expected be added to an exam, and therefore attendance for lecture periods is required. On the other hand, a student may believe that "if it isn't important enough for you to figure out how to test me on it, then why should I even need to learn it anyway?"
This same framework of questions and doubts can be applied to professional development courses in the working world as well. For example, I have found that certain webinars I attended from my home were very informative and educational, and conversely have been in the situation where I have spent time, money, and resources to fly across the country for in-person professional development, and have gotten nothing more out of the experience than what I could have gotten if the class had been offered online.
I believe that these questions touch on a number of different topics about the value of being in person, using an "in-person requirement" as a form of job or cost justification, and the different outlooks on learning in its current forms as a holistic and worthwhile pursuit or just a series of hurdles to jump through with minimal possible friction.
What do you think about the benefits and drawbacks of in-person vs remote learning, in either academia or the professional engineering world after school?
Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE