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Courses that are extremely difficult or downright impossible to be taught online

in person classes
Students, wearing facemasks amid concerns of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak, attend a class at the University of Science and Technology campus in Hanoi on March 2, 2020. Source: Manan Vatsayana/AFP

University classes have gone online for the most part from March 2020 onwards. As the pandemic rages in many countries such as the US, Australia and the UK, remote learning is set to continue in the fall semester as well.

Online learning, however, is not suited for all courses. Courses that require hands-on training are much harder to carry out online. Therefore, some universities are choosing to offer a mix of in-person classes and online classes to accommodate students.

Here are some examples of classes that are extremely difficult, or downright impossible, to be conducted online for long periods of time and will likely be held in-person at your university this year.

Automotive classes

Students in automotive courses rely heavily on technical hands-on training to prepare for the workplace, which has to take place while working on cars or equipment.

Rowan College of South Jersey offers an associate’s degree in automotive technology in partnership with the Ford Motors ASSET program. 

According to NBC Philadelphia, the current plan is to still offer those hands-on courses, but the situation could change.

Dominick Buzichellii, the school’s vice president and COO, said that they will be implementing rules such as social distancing, mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing.

He also said that when it comes to automotive instruction, “you’re in close quarters, you’re under the hood of a car”.

If certain classes can’t be held in person, students may be advised to take these classes at a safer time in the future. 

Burzichelli said, “You have to change your paradigm, you have to change your shifting on how you teach that class. You may have to put up the white flag and say ‘we can’t even offer it this semester,’ we have to see if conditions warrant having it in the spring.”

Doc Viola, the automotive technology director at Arapahoe Community College, told ChalkBeat that his department is creating a system this summer where students know the expectations for safety when attending in-person classes.

This includes precautions such as wiping down tools with disinfectant, splitting up classes to reduce class size, and creating a schedule for students to sign up and work on cars. 

He has also adjusted his syllabus so that grades ride on how well students comply with mask requirements and other safety precautions.

“If they don’t wear a mask, they are asked to leave, which then counts as an absence.”

Art and design courses

in person classes

Art and designs students are used to learning in studios, making remote instruction a challenge. Source: Shutterstock

Students in art and design courses thrive in studio settings. While classes that are based in theory can be carried out online, some with practical learning elements can only be done effectively in person. Some universities, however, are working around this. 

Cecelia Fitzgibbon, President of the Moore College of Art & Design, told NBC Philadelphia that their students will be given the choice to their complete studio work on- or off-campus.

Sliding barn doors that currently separate studios will be opened, and students taking painting classes will be spread out as they sit at their easels. Classes will also be filmed and live-streamed for those taking the class online.

Those participating in online studio classes will also be using paintbrushes and canvases, while getting online instruction from a faculty member who can offer feedback. 

Fitzgibbon said, “What we know about this generation is that these people are self-directed learners, they’ve had access to the internet since they were babies. They are inclined to do research. What college does is it teaches you how to focus and frame your research.”

Faculty members at the school are returning to campus 15 days before students are due to arrive to film instructional videos.

The videos will be on everything from the colour wheel to operation instructions for the college’s CNC router, which is a computer-aided cutting machine that students can use for their designs. 

As large machines like the CNC, or the embroidery and knitting machines for fashion students, would not be accessible at home, students aren’t expected to get their own.

The school, however, is shipping sewing machines to fashion students who will be learning remotely this semester. 

Laboratory courses and clinical instruction

in person classes

Lab courses require hands-on training, which is difficult to emulate online. Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

At many universities, courses that must take place in a laboratory setting will be held in-person. 

Greg Lupinski, director of environmental health and radiation safety at Temple University told NBC Philadelphia, “If you want to be a physical therapist, a leg is attached to a person. There’s no way around that,” adding that studentswill be provided augmented personal protective equipment, on par with what frontliners are using in hospitals.

According to a statement on Rutgers University’s website, clinical instruction and laboratory classes are among those that will take place in person in the fall semester:

“While the majority of our courses must be delivered remotely, a limited number of courses that benefit from direct access to campus facilities will happen in-person, with appropriate health-related precautions: some examples include select courses in the arts, laboratory or fieldwork, and clinical instruction. 

“Each chancellor has worked with his or her deans and faculty and will provide updates on specific courses that will use at least some in-person instruction. “

At Arapahoe Community College, the hands-on training programme over the summer for emergency medical technician classes proved impossible to carry out with social distancing measures sin place.

Sejal Porter, a student at New York University who enrolled in the summer programme at Arapahoe, said, “With medicine, it is so incredibly difficult to learn everything that we needed on mannequins and without being able to, for instance, take a pulse on somebody.”

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