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Some Online Learning Persists After Fall Return to Campus

Students exit Emerson Hall after class on Wednesday afternoon.
Students exit Emerson Hall after class on Wednesday afternoon. By Truong L. Nguyen
By Meera S. Nair, Crimson Staff Writer

While fall 2021 has marked a return to the in-person classroom for a majority of students and faculty, some classes within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences have continued to operate partially or fully online this semester.

Faculty cited a variety of factors that contributed to their decision-making in offering course components online, ranging from providing a smoother transition to the in-person classroom to accommodating immunocompromised individuals.

Patrick Mair, a Psychology senior lecturer, said Psychology 1900: “Introduction to Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences” tried to combine the “best of both worlds” by fusing in-person and remote learning when the teaching staff observed a rise in cases at the beginning of the semester.

“After the first unit, we had four Covid cases with students who were in my class right away, and several other [students] had to quarantine then who were in touch with them or in the same dorm,” Mair said.

“So we decided right away to do the exams remotely,” Mair added.

To further accommodate students, Mair said he is offering the option to take exams in the physical classroom if students do not have a quiet space within their dorms.

Romance Languages and Literatures senior preceptor Johanna D. Liander ’78, who heads both Spanish 30: “Four Countries and their Cultures” and Spanish 40: “Advanced Spanish Language I: Viewing the Hispanic World,” shared in an email that she also moved assessments online, including conducting oral examinations to Zoom.

“During their oral exam, neither student nor instructor need to wear a mask, allowing the possibility of speaking more naturally, observing how language is formed and other facial expressions, gathering non-verbal nuances, actually from both interlocutors,” Liander wrote.

Joseph K. Blitzstein, Statistics professor and director of undergraduate studies for the department, wrote in an email that he “thought hard about the exam format this year” for Stat 110: “Introduction to Probability,” ultimately deciding on an online format.

“First, as a safety precaution: the news on classroom protocols is encouraging but some students may not yet be comfortable being in a very crowded room, some are immunocompromised, some may be feeling a little under the weather on the day of an exam, etc.,” he wrote, referring to announcements from the University that it has yet to identify a positive case caused by transmission in the classroom.

“Second, Sanders is a beautiful theater and a fun place to teach in but a strange place to take an exam, with no desks,” he added.

African and African American Studies lecturer Linda D. M. Chavers, who teaches GenEd 1041: “How Did We Get Here? From Slavery to #MeToo,” shared that while she acknowledges the limitations of remote teaching, she opted to teach the course fully online for personal medical reasons.

“I love teaching and I’m pretty great at it but I’ve had to just accept that the quality of my course won’t be as awesome this term and I’m okay with that because I love being healthy even more,” Chavers wrote in an email.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at

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