Students unsure about remote classes after Thanksgiving

BYU students will be expected to continue classes after Thanksgiving remotely. (Photo illustration by Addie Blacker)

BYU students’ reactions to the announcement that all classes will go remote after Thanksgiving break have been mixed.

BYU junior Luke Roberts, from Salt Lake, was initially disappointed when he heard things would be remote after Thanksgiving, preventing a normal semester. “My disappointment turned to gratitude when I realized that it was probably a compromise that allowed us to attend school until that point.”

Roberts says overall he’s confident the decision is wise and will prevent more people from getting the COVID-19 virus. He plans on traveling back and forth between his family’s home in Salt Lake and his apartment in Provo. “It’s great to be with my family and everything, but I’ve got things set-up at my apartment and I have work and my routine down here in Provo,” he said.

Public health major Rebecca Cromar thinks going remote after Thanksgiving is a great idea considering circumstances, but she also sees some flaws. “Since many students are coming from a variety of locations for the Fall Semester in August, won’t that end up doing exactly what we are trying to prevent in November?”

BYU junior Braeden Neale says he recognizes that the school is concerned about an outbreak after Thanksgiving but that BYU should be concerned about students coming home from their parents’ houses at the beginning of Fall Semester.

“It is smart to not have people travel for Thanksgiving and then come back, but that benefit is nullified by the fact that everyone is coming back from being away in hotspots like California, Arizona and Texas.” He said if BYU is concerned about an outbreak, it should just be remote for the whole semester.

Even though Neale believes BYU should have just stayed remote for the entirety of the semester, he’s glad classes will be remote post-Thanksgiving. “My mum is high-risk, so I wouldn’t have been able to go home without quarantining first — with classes remote, I can do that.”

Michael Rubin, professor of Internal Medicine in the epidemiology division at the University of Utah, said going remote after Thanksgiving break could potentially make a difference in preventing the spread of COVID-19 as well as influenza after traveling, but it depends heavily on what happens prior to the break.

Rubin said the pandemic in Utah is worsening with hospitalizations, and deaths on the rise. He said there’s little reason to expect these numbers will improve by the time school starts in the fall. 

“It could very well be that the decision to go completely remote might occur well before Thanksgiving,” Rubin said.

BYU student Sage Sandstrom said BYU’s plan to switch to remote classes after Thanksgiving is a good idea because it limits travel back and forth, but she’s not sure it’s the best option for students. “That’s going to be finals and sometimes being home isn’t the best environment for taking a test,” she said. “COVID-wise it’s probably a smart move. I feel like it’s different for all students.”

Sandstrom is still trying to decide what she is going to do after Thanksgiving, but right now she’s leaning towards going home to Montana and staying there for the remainder of the semester. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to stay here (in Provo).” She lives 10 hours away from her family and thinks going home would give her valuable time with family she doesn’t get to see very often.

Richard West, a BYU professor of instructional psychology and technology, said going remote after Thanksgiving should not affect students at all. “If anything, it will make it easier to take finals because students will not have to use the testing center but instead can test online,” West said. “Research has consistently shown that there is no difference in learning outcomes in online learning vs. in-person learning.”

West said online learning isn’t worse, it’s just different. “Some teachers teach better online and some teach better in-person,” he said. “Some instructional strategies work better online and some work better in-person.”

Jason McDonald, another BYU professor of instructional psychology and technology, agreed. “Whether it’s good or bad is up to students and their professors.”

BYU has said plans for Fall Semester are subject to change due to the pandemic.

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