More than a year into a pandemic, students at Salt Lake Community College are ready to return to a real classroom.
With online coursework being the norm since last March, students say they miss feeling like they’re part of an active campus and are willing to take the necessary safety precautions to return to in-person classes.
“It’s a different story [between] online and in person,” said Kasia Bolke, a physical therapy major at SLCC. “When I’m at campus, it actually feels like I’m in college.”
Social distancing guidelines have kept most SLCC students from attending classes in person. Although some courses adopted a hybrid method of alternating between online and face-to-face attendance, this approach is not active in every class.
Part of the experience, especially for newer students, is the chance to make lasting social connections that come with taking classes physically alongside other students. Whether it be study groups, project partners or clubs, in-person learning has different advantages and disadvantages from its online counterparts, according to Ruben Santos, a business major.
“I miss being around people, meeting new people, and just the overall nature of it,” Santos said, noting he hopes another semester of fully online classes won’t be necessary. “It wouldn’t be the worst thing […] but I’d prefer [being] on campus.”
Some, including instructors, have noted a few advantages from utilizing video conferencing software for classes. Bill Kilpack, a communication adjunct instructor, said he noticed more active participation among his online students.
“It’s a pretty dramatic improvement, at least 25 percent more,” he said. “I didn’t see that coming.”
Kilpack noted the virtual environment seemed to encourage students to express themselves.
“More [students] are willing to participate in discussions over Zoom than they normally do […] in a classroom,” he observed.
As vaccine rollouts continue throughout the state, hope begins to emerge for the eventual return of more face-to-face classes, chatting with classmates and trying not to get called on by the professor.