Students and teachers reflect on the return to face-to-face teaching this semester

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This semester, students and lecturers returned to complete their first full classroom semester in almost two years.

Fall 2019 was the last time the UNC had a fully personal semester. After over a year of remote operation, students and lecturers had to adjust to personal learning again and at the same time balance out new teaching formats that were created by the virtual transition.

Diante Fields, first year biology, said it was difficult to switch back to face-to-face teaching from online learning.

“I would say it was a bit difficult to come back in person because this online training is very superficial and it’s a very different atmosphere for us to come back in person,” said Fields.

Fields said he enjoyed learning online because of the flexibility it gave him in his daily routine.

“We get tired as students and need this flexibility like, ‘Can I come to this class asynchronously?'” Fields said.

To help students prepare for personal return this semester, some professors have implemented remote options to offer students a mix of both types of learning.

Victoria Song, a junior student in environmental and business studies, said these course options strike a good balance between the value of personal experience and the flexibility of distance learning.

“I think I realized that I really appreciate that some classes are face-to-face but can sometimes be on a hybrid basis,” said Song. “For example, if you were sick or something, you could zoom in and the professor could take you into class.”

Some professors have also changed the structure of their courses related to the pandemic, particularly with regard to the use of technology.

Alexandra Goldych, a graduate lecturer in the Romance Studies department, said she was using online textbooks and powerpoints in her classroom more now than it was before the pandemic.

“In my language classes and in most of the language classrooms, we didn’t use powerpoints before COVID-19 and were much more interactive,” said Goldych.

John Albrite, a graduate lecturer at the Department of English and Comparative Literature, said he began using Sakai as an information hub during the pandemic and continued using it this semester – although his students no longer have to rely on it.

Albrite said that in general he prefers to teach in person because it allows him to better assess questions or confusions rather than just talking in space.

“I feel like being personal again has helped me better assess whether the students understand the class, whether they are interested in what we are talking about,” said Albrite.

Personal learning also enables opportunities that are not possible remotely. Fields said the face-to-face presence helped him with classes with a physical learning component.

“As a bio major you have to be personal and have hands-on experience in the labs,” Fields said.

After most of the students returned to campus, more personal social activities resumed. However, because of the pandemic, Song still doesn’t look like it used to.

“Everyone was more social, and now there are obviously restrictions because of COVID,” she said. “I haven’t really made new friends. I just got closer to my old friends, so I can only imagine how difficult it is for first graders.”

At the beginning of the fall semester, there were several active COVID-19 clusters on campus. These included dormitory clusters such as Ehringhaus, Hinton James, Parker, and Avery.

According to the UNC COVID-19 dashboard, as of November 28, there will be no active clusters in campus apartments.

According to the Carolina Together website, 94 percent of students have confirmed they are vaccinated, and students 18 and older who have been vaccinated for at least 6 months are now eligible for a booster vaccination in North Carolina.

Those who are not vaccinated must be tested weekly, a precaution of the Carolina Together Testing program, which has been in effect since September 15.

Additional precautionary measures include mask requirements, which continue to apply in classes, libraries, dormitory common areas, and dining rooms.

Despite these differences from a normal year, Fields, Song, Goldych, and Albrite saw the benefits of being back on campus this semester.

“All in all, I’d say I’ve had more fun teaching this semester than I used to,” said Albrite.

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