Petition: Change Class Organization and Flexibility
Petition: Change Class Organization and Flexibility
Why this petition matters
This Petition is to represent the students of Auburn University HSOP to convey the requests and concerns of the students for a more compromising and flexible school curriculum.
A letter was written, and goes as follows:
To Whom It May Concern,
I am a student in the Harrison School of Pharmacy; we have begun classes, and I am sure I speak for quite a few others when I say that I cannot be more excited to be here at Auburn. I also speak for myself and other classmates who feel similarly as I write to kindly petition the school to allow students an alternative to the current academic structure of required, live courses on Zoom from 8a-11a every weekday.
During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are drastic changes that are occurring everywhere, from businesses to universities like Auburn. These include the basics like social distancing and required face coverings but also more modified and flexible hours or scheduling for staff and employees across the nation. All of these moves are made with the safety of the individual as a top priority as well as the ability to maintain daily operations and meet goals or requirements. With this in mind, many academic institutions have made the push to utilize remote learning platforms, like Zoom, in order to satisfy and nurture hungry minds that are eager to advance their education. In addition to this, because of the heterogeneity of student needs, many institutions of higher learning - especially graduate schools accommodating many students that are also parents, spouses, heads of households, caregivers, and professional employees - have also opted to incorporate various levels of hybrid learning models, where some lecture material is remote and other necessary things are done on the campus, in person, and modified to obey COVID-19 precautionary ordinances. I am happy that the School of Pharmacy is among this group and conducts labs in person and lecture materials online; however, I disagree that Zoom lectures should be delivered synchronously without any flexibility for students with other time-conflicting commitments.
Hybrid learning is a great model because it is a way to match different learning styles, but at Auburn, not only is attendance mandatory at the specific class time every day, but students are also penalized for their absence. The mandatory attendance obviously restricts students with other responsibilities that conflict with the class time and facing a penalty forces students to choose among their other priorities that should be in balance with school, which is unfair to the student. Mandatory attendance is also not fully necessary, considering that lectures are recorded and supposed to be made available to students who were not able to attend, according to Auburn’s planned response to the pandemic, “A Healthier U.” The academic plan states that one of its guiding principles is providing ample opportunity for academic retention and progress for students, and that regardless of the course’s delivery method, all classes will be recorded to ensure availability to students. In addition, it is stated that in online courses with a mixed delivery, faculty might give students flexibility for when they engage content. Considering the plan, penalizing a student for being unavailable at a single class time hinders their opportunity to retain their enrollment in their program and progress through school, as one bad grade or penalty in a graduate or professional program bears much more weight than undergraduate. Not only that, but graduate and professional students are more likely to be working, parenting, or fulfilling some other obligation that will likely make them less flexible at certain hours, especially when classes are daily. Second, if a professor is to offer flexibility or recorded lectures for students unable to attend, then it is contradictory to also penalize those students for their inability to attend, and enforcing a requirement on the assigned class time does not offer flexibility at all. Lastly, my peers in the program have expressed their concerns that the required live Zoom sessions are not conducive to a dynamic way of understanding the material. Oftentimes, I have noticed students convey that the professors move too quickly, making it hard to keep up and take notes, so they stop listening altogether and watch the recorded lectures at their leisure. This essentially makes attending the zoom class more of a chore to the student rather than a useful learning tool.
Another grievance is the time constraints placed on assignments. I understand this is done strategically to promote student engagement during class, however, it is difficult for students to plan ahead. Some students have full-time or part-time work requirements and families, so an assignment opening at 11:00 am and being due at 5:00 pm the same day can pose a challenge. Something I found to work well is opening an assignment at the start of class and giving it until midnight or the start of class the next day to complete it. This allows students who must work after class adequate time to complete the assignment.
In conclusion, it is to be considered, learning is dynamic; some schools have made the great option of making remote learning more suitable to the student and learning style. What I am describing is giving the freedom to the student to attend online class at their discretion or rather watch the classes later via recordings, without fear of academic penalties or imposed requirements. Fellow institutions such as Samford University, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Meharry School of Pharmacy, UAB, and Morehouse School of Medicine have adopted a hybrid learning environment that is inclusive of all students’ learning styles and lifestyles. More so, the time release and constraints on assignments should be more considerate and calculated for the student body; an option being to release assignments or material at the start of class and to end before the start of the next class the following day. Taking into consideration all that is enclosed in this letter can vastly improve and progress the work relationship between school and student, especially in this time of pandemic and stress. I believe with changes and well considered alterations, the curriculum and course can grow for the better, what higher level institution would not want that?