Face-to-Face Classes Make a Comeback at UTC

By Seth Carpenter, Staff Writer-

On Monday, Feb. 1, UTC made the transition back to face-to-face class sessions for in-person and hybrid courses.

This comes after a period of mandating all classes be held online, with a few exceptions, for the first two weeks of the spring semester in order to prepare for the potential uptick in COVID-19 cases following winter break.

According to Dr. Jerold Hale, the provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs,

 “The initial decision to delay face-to-face classes was made by the [Chancellor’s] Executive Leadership Team to monitor an expected surge in COVID-19 cases from the New Year’s holiday and so that our program of routine testing on campus would be in place before face-to-face instruction began.”

Professor Randy Golson of the Communication department took a sobering view of the move.

“This has been hectic for everyone involved, for the students as well as the administration and faculty. As things go, I think it’s gone well.”

Golson also acknowledged that while there are always aspects of online curriculum that can be criticized in retrospect,

 “We are far ahead of a lot of other institutions in terms of dealing with this.”

For many, including junior Titus Scoddins from Chattanooga and sophomore Noah Jones from Sneedville, the return to in-person classes has been a welcomed one.

“I love the in-person connection, especially with professors. Asking questions is easier,” Scoddins said. “I feel it’s difficult to reach out to a professor online. A student might feel insecure about asking such a simple question because they feel like it might ruin the pace of the class rather than in-person where it always feels like it’s sort of live and not all scripted.”

Jones emphasized a subtler difference between online and in-person learning.

“I also think it’s easier to like take notes and actually pay attention if I’m in a classroom rather than just sitting on my couch at home.”

Still, others have been more amicable to the online format such as sophomore Makayla Sullivan from Athens.

“In-class is wasting my time,” Sullivan said. “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

However, there are also more technical difficulties that come with the online format.

Golson continued by stating,

“For those who don’t live on campus, not everyone has the most optimal internet speed, I can’t mark them absent simply because their internet wasn’t up to speed. The best thing we can all do for everybody is to be patient and understanding. We all have to be flexible.”

Of course, maintaining in-person classes during the pandemic is reliant on many factors.

Hale said, “Those factors include, but are not limited to, availability of PPE, the ability to staff campus services such as dining facilities and residence halls, the ability to contact trace positive cases, and the availability of isolation and quarantine space.”

It is also important to remember that this pandemic is affecting everyone.

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