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Parents, students react to in-person classes this fall

March 25, 2021
<p>Campus on Sept. 18, 2020. MSU has put up large posters around campus to encourage students and the community to practice social distancing and to wear masks.</p>

Campus on Sept. 18, 2020. MSU has put up large posters around campus to encourage students and the community to practice social distancing and to wear masks.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

After almost an entire school year of primarily remote learning, students are eager to get back into the groove of things with in-person classes at Michigan State University.

On Friday, March 5 President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. wrote in an email that "the university is planning for a more typical fall semester, with 75% of undergraduate classes offered in person."

Following the email, there were overwhelmingly positive reactions from faculty members, students and parents. Although students and faculty have adjusted to remote learning and made the most of it, it is not quite the same as a face-to-face experience. Online classes have made it difficult for individuals to successfully gain an understanding of the class materials, and get to know their peers. With that being said, individuals are curious about how the university plans to ease back into normalcy in terms of in-person learning.

"The COVID-19 Task Force the president established last year will continue to provide guidance and expertise for executing this transition in a safe and health-informed manner, allowing students, faculty and staff adequate time to prepare for a successful fall semester," Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen said.

With 75% of classes held in person, individuals wonder what the remaining 25% are and how they will be run. The university is brainstorming new ways to successfully hold class online for those that are unable to be put on in person. These classes include large lectures and lab classes. While these were run remotely this past year, it has been a challenge for many individuals to both teach and engage within the course.

"Many of the remaining classes will be hybrid models or online courses," Olsen said. "These will be mainly large lecture-style classes with hundreds of students. We are doing our best to reduce the sizes of those large classes and offer part of them online. We've also learned from students over the course of the pandemic that many want the flexibility offered by synchronous and asynchronous online courses, so we are increasing our online offerings as well. We will continue to review and adapt our plans as state and local health orders and directives adapt and change as more and more members of our campus community become eligible to receive a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine."

Students and parents have reacted to this year's online learning experience in numerous different ways. It is unclear to many whether it was a smart choice or more specifically, if the university was too quick to make a decision. Moreover, this is a concern for many with this recent announcement for fall classes.

"In all honesty, I think they did it pretty poorly last time because ... they said we were going to go back to campus and be back in class and then after we all paid for our stuff they announced that we were going online," computer engineering sophomore Mijan Ahmad-Nizam said. "I still think maybe they should have waited just a little bit because with this pandemic things can change or there could be a new variant or things could spike ... Overall, I think if they are able to follow through (with this decision) I think it should be good."

For Rachelle Rebant Lopez, a parent of an MSU student, the best option is for MSU to explain what classes will be held in person or in hybrid formats and for them to get creative with the rest.

"With MSU’s rationale unclear on how or why they determined 75 percent, one is left to assume they did so because they do not believe it is safe to put too many students in one room at a time," Lopez said. "If this assumption is accurate then my recommendation is for MSU to get creative; find and implement solutions that put students physically in class. Nothing is impossible, it just takes creativity and the commitment to do what is right. Relying on students to continue to teach themselves via the easy fallback of virtual school is unfair and unnecessary."

Mental health among students has been affected significantly due to online learning. Students struggle to interact with others and complete actions as simple as getting out of their pajamas when they do not need to go anywhere to attend a class meeting or complete assignments.

"Mental health has also been affected," Ahmad-Nizam said. "Classes that are really hard to do online effect mental health. I've seen stats for things like suicides (increasing), and that is really sad to see."

In Stanley's email, he said there will be routine mitigation practices like mask mandates in the fall.

Starting April 5, all Michigan residents over 16 years old are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

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