OPINION | Asynchronous classes do not meet Tulane’s academic standards

Anna Dixon, Contributing Writer

Students’ quality of learning is devalued during asynchronous lectures. (Maggie Pasterz)

There is no denying that Tulane University’s campus is different this semester. The open space of quads has been replaced by temporary classrooms, party culture has vanished for the socially responsible, and the education that students receive has been altered by the coronavirus. 

Most of Tulane’s classes are now offered in a hybrid format, with the option of attending either in person or through Zoom. Other courses have asynchronous components, with students given an assignment to complete or a video to watch in place of class. 

 Asynchronous classes equate to students teaching themselves material, but with Tulane receiving credit for their learning. In truth, they are no different to watching educational videos on YouTube. Crash Course, The Organic Chemistry Tutor and countless other YouTube channels have been offering these services for years. 

The sole difference is that these videos are free whereas Tulane is still charging full tuition for services that are not a full education. 

Asynchronous classes place the vast majority of learning responsibility on the student. Only a few students have lived up to this expectation. Pressures to take the easy way out are omnipresent. Video lectures allow for the option of speeding up a professor which incentivizes finishing a 50-minute class in 25.  When assignments and exams are completed online, cheating is rampant and learning is limited

The coronavirus presents a vague concept of the future for the student body. The long-term consequences of not retaining material appear to be pushed aside as students remain clueless of what lies in store for the spring semester. Rigidity regarding class times and study schedules no longer hold the same value, as asynchronous assignments are completed absent of the professor’s observation. 

More importantly, the format of asynchronous classes isolates students from their peers and the professor. Students are thus unable to form a relationship with professors or seek help from peers. Long gone are the sharing of study guides, notes and in-person office hours. From behind a plexiglass screen, those in need of assistance struggle to ask last-minute questions at the end of class periods.

The faculty response to holding in-person classes at Tulane shows how few professors were comfortable returning to campus in the time of a pandemic. However, professors should not be blamed for wanting to hold asynchronous or online classes, rather, the responsibility falls on the administration. 

Tulane, like most higher education institutions across the country, claims that they have adapted classes to be both socially distant and educational. In practice, the latter is lacking. 

Prior to the pandemic, Tulane offered few online classes on the pretense that they fall short of the in-person learning standards. Now, the university seems to think that students receive the same quality of education by watching a video in their room and reading a textbook than is provided during physical lectures, purely so tuition can be the same for both. 

Arguably the worst part of asynchronous classes is the precedent that they set. If students can receive a college degree from the comfort of their own home, what is stopping them from continuing to do this? If colleges can charge full tuition in exchange for pre-recorded lectures and at home assignments, why would they return to in-person classes? It is unfair to attempt to equate the online experience to the in-person experience. While the student body had little choice in returning to campus for the fall semester, it should not be the case that the quality of their education suffers alongside the social pitfalls of the pandemic.