Pitt students try to make sense of two-week optional online period


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Across Oakland, students react to the news that an online option will be available for the first two weeks of classes and what that means for the coming semester.

By Brandon Raglow, Staff Writer

Paige Wischmeyer was “bummed out” after hearing about Pitt’s recent decision to offer remote classes for the first two weeks, but said she accepted the University’s decision.

“I wish school would go back to the way it was before, but again I want COVID over as soon as it can, so whatever we need to do that, we can do that,” Wischmeyer, a junior nursing student, said.

For students, the University’s announcement of a two-week optional online period brought trepidation over the prospect of another semester spent online. Most classes took place remotely for the vast majority of last academic year, though some classes moved in person for select weeks when Pitt officials said virus prevalence had decreased.

Wischmeyer pointed out some of the benefits that come from online learning — benefits she doesn’t want to lose.

“I kind of like how you can watch pre-recorded lectures and stuff like that so I really wouldn’t mind [if the online option was extended] as long as you still have the option to be able to go into class,” Wischmeyer said.

Other students, like sophomore neuroscience major Ricky Thomas, are more skeptical about what this means for the learning experience Pitt can provide.

“I read it wrong at first and thought we were doing just online, and then I found out it was optional but I was still kind of mad, because the incentive to go to class now has been lowered,” Thomas said.

He said he understood where the University was coming from, but still isn’t a fan of the new move.

“I think it’s good for people who are still a little bit wary, I mean, Pitt’s a big school, there’s gonna be some big classes, so I think it was good for those people,” Thomas said. “But for people who are vaccinated and stuff like that and are ready to get going, I think that was more of a detriment than anything.”

He said he just doesn’t want a return to the online conditions of last academic year.

“If I’m sitting there and all the cameras are off and nobody else is there and it’s just me, I really don’t feel that motivated to pay that much attention,” Thomas said.

Eri Shay, a first-year psychology major, said she agreed that online learning was not as conducive to an in-person learning experience.

“I was kind of worried it would be like my senior year, where all my classes were online,” Shay said. “I think you can focus better when you’re in person, because if you have your phone right there, then you’re obviously going to want to go on it.”

Shay also said there are benefits of creating distinct spaces for work and relaxation.

“Also, just separating the time that you spend studying away from where you sleep, like you want to separate those as much as possible, because your brain will get confused if you study where you sleep and sleep where you study,” Shay said. “I think that’s the main benefit, you’re just separating relax time in your dorm and study time at the library or the classroom or wherever.”

Though many students can’t wait to return to the classroom, not everyone feels that this is the best or safest course of action. Chaylin Henderson, a senior marketing major, said she doesn’t feel the two-week period will be enough.

“I’m glad they’re doing it, especially around now with like O-week and everyone and their mother being just out and about,” Henderson said. “But at the same time I also am really hoping that we’re going to switch to a hybrid option because I feel like trying to enforce in-person class is just going to lead to the outcome of getting closed back down again.”

She said the negative aspects of online learning aren’t as much of a factor to her.

“In my mind I’m not too worried about the quality of the class. I’m more worried about the safety of others and the safety of myself over that,” she said. “At this point I’ve kind of gotten used to online class.”

Henderson said she would prefer a consistent approach over one where the conditions are constantly changing.

“I would prefer them to keep the utmost safety and take the safest measures instead of doing the like, flip-flop back and forth of ‘Oh we’re in person,’ ‘Oh there’s too many cases rising we need to go back to online,’ ‘Oh look let’s try to open things back up,’ ‘Oh wait we have too many cases coming back again we have to go back online,’” Henderson  said. “In my opinion, I would still rather just have everything be virtual, even during my last year.”

Shay said she may still take advantage of the optional online period.

“If for some reason I don’t feel like going to class that day, then I’ll probably use the Zoom or the online option, but I’ll probably make an effort to be in person most of the time,” Shay said.

Wischmeyer agreed, saying she would also probably take some classes from the comfort of her room.

“I’d like to be able to go into class, I’ll see what happens,” Wischmeyer said. “I’m a bit lazy so it sounds nice to be able to wake up a minute or two before your class starts and just open up the computer, but I learn better when I’m in class and it’s better for me to get out of the house and stuff so I like to say I’d go in person but I’m probably going to do more than half online until it goes back to being [fully] in person.”

Some students, like junior political science and history major Anna Cawood, said she is lamenting the loss of some freedom that online learning allowed.

“I’ll kind of miss the ability to travel, because my grandmother passed last semester, so I spent a week in South Carolina and I was still able to go to class and everything so that was nice,”

Cawood said. “I feel like two weeks is a good length. I mean, I guess it makes sense to have an abundance of caution with Delta because that is scary.”

Despite worrying about the Delta variant, Madilyn Frack, a junior biology major said she is excited to get back into the classroom.

“Yeah, last year sucked so I’m ready to go back,” Frack said. “I just want things to be back in person so bad.”