Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted classes to take a different form to minimize the spread of the virus that can occur through in-person contact. Administrators around the world have been looking for possible solutions to this problem as soon as possible so that students do not lose their learning momentum during the school year.
One solution included conducting classes in a synchronous format, in which instructors and students met online at scheduled times throughout the week. “Holding classes online synchronously was the best solution one could think of during the pandemic and essentially saved students who otherwise might have had their student careers disrupted and their graduation delayed,” said the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Student Services and Director of the Institute for Teaching Excellence Dr. Basil Baltzis.
“However,” he added, “because this was the first time that this approach had been followed on a large scale both at NJIT and in a very large number of other institutions, there is now enough data to suggesting that the approach needs further study and refinement if it is to be successful.
The data shows that students, especially at the undergraduate level, encountered difficulties both in the acquisition of knowledge and in sensitive areas affecting mental health. “Until we have a better understanding of the effectiveness of synchronous online learning, the university has decided not to offer courses in this modality,” Baltzis said.
Like any rule or policy has its exceptions, Baltzis explained an example that there would be with the elimination of synchronous classes. If a course is in a specialized area that requires the expertise of a specific faculty member, and that faculty member is away in a lab performing funded research or for personal reasons, the law requires that they be accommodated. . “These cases are really rare, and I don’t see more than a handful of courses offered in the synchronous online modality,” he added.
He stressed that there is no intention to discontinue online courses: “It is clear that the future of higher education will involve a number of modalities for delivering courses and one of they will be online. According to the accepted definition, online involves “asynchronous delivery,” which consists of fully virtual classes with no scheduled times for instructors and students to meet. Baltzis noted, “The university plans to expand its presence in the online space, particularly at the graduate level.”