With the COVID-19 virus infecting people across the globe, measures have been taken to slow the spread of the virus. In the U.S., many major events have been canceled, stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders have been issued in states like New York and California and schools have closed down throughout the state. During spring, summer and possibly even the fall quarter, Highlanders will be taking classes completely online. Switching to remote instruction is essential to fighting the spread of COVID-19, but it also presents an opportunity for UCR to continue offering as many online classes as they can, even after the worst of this disease has passed.
College students are busier than ever, often juggling multiple responsibilities outside of their education such as child care, work and commuting. Online classes, with their benefit of not having to be physically on campus, can offer relief in a number of ways. Taking classes online means less driving, and with no commute to school students are able to save money on gas. Gas prices right now are at an all time low, but long trips to and from school often leads to hefty bills at the pump, so saving gas is still a worthy endeavor.
Removing the commute also means students will have more time to dedicate to their studies, since they will be spending less of it on the road braving California traffic. For those Highlanders who are parents, online classes would allow them to stay at home with their kids without having to worry about trying to find a babysitter or leaving their children at daycare. This will give those parents a great opportunity to spend time with their children during their formative years while also allowing them to save money.
Time is perhaps the most precious thing an online education could offer students. On top of not having to commute and spend time in traffic, taking classes online means that students will have to worry less about having to pick classes that adhere to a certain schedule. When students have multiple responsibilities to juggle, they have to find a way to arrange their tasks so they don’t overlap or interfere with each other. The need to be selective with their time limits many Highlander’s options regarding which classes they can take. Many online classes don’t have set meeting times, which is something students could take advantage of as they try to balance their other responsibilities with school.
Stress is another element of college life that online classes could help reduce. In a study done by The American College Health Association, out of 73,912 students, 35.3% reported stress as a factor affecting their work. Online classes are not a cure for stress, but with their time less monopolized by driving and their schedule more flexible because they can stay home to take their courses, Highlanders could find themselves less stressed. At the very least, a Highlander who faces less time constraints will ideally have more time to seek help for their stress or any number of the mental health issues college students tend to suffer from. The benefits of extra time could also help educators, who, like Highlanders, often find themselves pressed for time because of the rigorous pace of the quarter system and the demands of higher learning.
People might be inclined to ask why someone who is so pressed for time and desperate for convenience wouldn’t simply attend an online university. The answer is two-fold in that UCR provides a superior education and someone who may need online classes during one quarter might not need them for another. Situations change and if busy students should find themselves benefiting from attending in-person classes, they should be able to do so. On top of providing a superior education, UCR hosts campus events, hundreds of clubs and in general provides numerous resources for students in addition to receiving an education. When a student finds themselves with free time on their hands, they would benefit from spending it at UCR and getting involved with campus activities. What would further empower students is giving them more flexibility in deciding when and how they will take their classes.
Of course, not every class can or should be offered online. Classes with labs especially benefit from students being there in person. This is also not to say that UCR should completely replace their physical classes with online classes. In order to alleviate some of the stress of students and educators alike, UCR should try to offer at least one online alternative for every on-campus class they can. In this way, those Highlanders and educators who would benefit from studying and teaching at home could do so. The opportunity to take or teach classes online is a win-win in a system which demands so much time and energy from students and educators alike.