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Online classes have drastically improved and can really help students. 

From completely altering social routines to assimilating to new socially distant methods of schooling, the past year has introduced many unprecedented challenges. Fortunately, the innovative processes created to counter these challenges offer useful insight for the future. Among this multitude of changes, JMU has had to transform the university’s curriculum to allow students to participate in a safe and effective manner.

Through the trial and error of the past few semesters, the JMU community is getting virtual communication down to a science. This is especially helpful for those who have had positive experiences with online education. For many students, having a full course load in person can be stressful and difficult to schedule. 

Over the past few semesters, professors and students alike have integrated new technologies into their daily routines. The first step for many was mastering Zoom and WebEx, both of which have been used to facilitate synchronous online classes. Next was figuring out ways to stay connected with classmates, like using FlipGrid and Canvas Discussions. The transition was difficult for many, but through it all, students and staff collaborated in order to make the best of an unusual situation.

This experience has resulted in skills and lessons that can be applied in the future to benefit JMU students. Online classes have taught students technical skills that they may not have learned otherwise — something that will look impressive to future employers while aiding students in the rest of their college careers. Online instruction has also highlighted the importance of time management and self-care. 

Students have had to dedicate long hours to complete online assignments and exams, while professors have had to re-create their lesson plans to accommodate a virtual classroom. But, taking breaks is necessary for one’s mental, emotional and even physical health. Architectural Digest reports that stepping away from the computer helps recharge your brain and lower stress on your mind and body. Learning to balance work and rest is a difficult practice for many, but it’s even more difficult to master when your classroom is only a mouse-click away.

Classes that students need may overlap or occur on opposite sides of campus, making it impossible to earn necessary credits. These problems could easily be solved by offering online alternatives to major requirements, B.A. and B.S. requirements, and Gen-Ed options.

These alternatives could help many students avoid having to prolong their college experience due to courses filling up or classrooms reaching capacity. This would also make it easier for students who are struggling logistically or who only have early morning and late evening options for class times. 

Continuing to offer online classes would also help professors. Some professors may prefer teaching online to teaching in person, while others might have children to look after during the day. Online courses are especially important in the near future, considering that some people may not be comfortable in a class full of college students yet. 

Online classes have the potential to help students and staff feel more comfortable while allowing them to accomplish goals that couldn’t be reached solely with in person course offerings. The benefits of these alternatives are plentiful and may attract future students who feel a mix of online and in-person learning is best for them. Online classes have been integral to student life throughout the pandemic and could still make a positive impact on the community post-COVID.

Liz Riccio is a sophomore Media arts and design and Psychology major. Contact Liz at riccioem@dukes.jmu.edu.