When I transferred to Shippensburg University in fall 2019, I already had more than 70 credits under my belt from two prior colleges. I had taken all of my electives and general education courses. After making the sudden decision to switch from psychology to English, the only courses left to fulfill my degree requirements were English courses, scattered with a few foreign language classes. I had no idea how difficult it would be to fulfill my degree requirement until I was a semester in. Who would have thought how difficult it would be to commute from 45 minutes away and still manage to take all of my required courses?
Every semester, my adviser and I have worked tirelessly to find some sort of method that fits to ensure that I graduate on time, but prior to the COVID-19 coronavirus, the fall 2020 was looking nearly impossible for me unless I commuted to campus five days a week. I was facing the possibility of having to delay my graduation by another semester.
And then, miracle of miracles, SU gave students the choice to take classes remotely for the fall semester. I was able to take on a five-day-a-week schedule with five crucial courses, all without spending a dime on transportation. This convenience, honestly, feels too good to give up on so quickly. So I raise the question: Why doesn’t SU keep this hybrid Zoom-in-person instructional method?
Now of course, I’m not suggesting that all courses should be offered online, especially not the first-year courses, that would be detrimental to the stellar “First-Year Experience” program Shippensburg has built. First-year students would probably have much better retention rates if they had an on-campus experience for their initial classes.
But why not give upperclassmen, commuters and working adults a bit more flexibility in their academic career when needed? SU has already invested greatly in the classroom OWLs and Zoom training for faculty and staff. Is there really much to lose here?
If a story about a disgruntled commuter does not convince you that our campus could benefit from continuing this hybrid method, consider this: It is not just commuters it would help. People with disabilities have long since advocated for more accessibility in academics and the workforce. For years, their requests for working and learning remotely were considered impossible, unthinkable. Now, businesses and campuses all across the country have snapped their fingers and made it happen, proving it was possible if given enough reason.
Now that we know that it is possible, let’s not stop there. Let’s continue to make our academic environment accessible, regardless of a student’s reasons for learning from home.
Lastly, I imagine there could be financial gain by continuing our current hybrid method. People who live out of commuting range from Shippensburg could attend classes “here,” increasing enrollment rates. SU has the chance to transform its online learning presence, and it would be a great mistake not to seize this opportunity.