Civil Discourse Program Op-Ed: Should Linn-Benton Offer More or Less In-Person Classes?

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LBCC Should Offer More In-Person Classes

Authors: Yahaira Suarez, Miles Henderson, Gabriel Knox, and The CIvil DIscourse Program

Going to school during a pandemic has been a rollercoaster ride for many of us. The flexibility of online learning has allowed us to remain safely at home while continuing our education.  However, it’s time to offer more in-person learning opportunities at LBCC. Not just as a “return to normalcy” but for the sake of providing a quality education and improving the mental and physical health of students.

Questions about the quality of online classes continue to rise. According to the recent study, Is Online Education Working?, students in face-to-face courses “perform better than their online counterparts with respect to their grades, the propensity to withdraw from the course, and the likelihood of receiving a passing grade.” There are many possible reasons for these results.  Short attention spans that make it difficult to concentrate seem to be a common reason why many students are struggling. Taking a class through a screen is a very different experience than being in a physical classroom. When people are in a setting that makes it difficult for them to be fully engaged, it makes sense that we’ll see results like the ones highlighted in this study.

Another problem with online classes is academic dishonesty. There are far more ways to cheat on tests, assignments, papers, and quizzes. Chegg, Quizlet, and the inability for teachers to fully monitor a testing environment has increased the opportunities for cheating to occur.  Recent reports show that this problem is increasing and that some students are having other people take their tests. This is vital to acknowledge because academic honesty isn’t just a moral issue, it’s a safety issue. We often turn to professionals like doctors, lawyers, and accountants because of their expertise.  If colleges graduate people who have cheated in their classes, we will all end up suffering.

It’s also important to note that in-person classes can be much better for a student’s health. One of the biggest effects of online classes is social isolation. This is not good for the mental health of college students whose rates of anxiety and depression are skyrocketing. School can be the source of many social interactions, which we know can benefit a person’s health.  When tragedies like suicide are among the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S., one would think that colleges would be more proactive about addressing the basic psychological need of social interaction that comes from face-to-face interactions.  Additionally, in-person classes don’t just help with mental health, but they also encourage some physical activity.  Unless students have some other form of exercise, walking to in-person classes might be their only physical activity during the day. For example, Gabriel has in-person classes at Oregon State University. The step count on his watch increases by about 2,500 to 3,000 steps on days that he has class on campus.  His step count on days he works on his online classes at LBCC are much lower.

When examining the quality of education and health of students, we can see that more in-person classes are needed and wanted.  This is why LBCC should offer more face-to-face classes in the future.


LBCC Should Offer Less In-Person Classes

Authors: Moriah Rivera-Lawrence, Nick May, and The Civil Discourse Program

What does “safe and healthy” mean during the COVID-19 pandemic? This is a question many are asking as they weigh risk factors against in-person activities. The answer is complex.  As Becca Priddy, a Portland-area teacher with Long COVID put it in her interview, “Being around 1,000 unvaccinated kids every day has made my anxiety really high…I don’t think people understand how debilitating this is.”  The absence of a vaccine mandate, in conjunction with rising case counts at LBCC, has many employees and students wary of returning to campus in the near future.  With so much anxiety and uncertainty, our college should continue risk reduction protocols, including the reduction of in-person class offerings, until we know the long-term impacts of contracting COVID.

According to the Oregon Vaccine News Blog, we don’t know who is most affected by long COVID.  We do know, however, that the best way to prevent it is to avoid contracting COVID-19.  Many are under informed about comorbidities and there are still questions about the long term effects of the virus even as variants appear “more mild”.  This means those who do not have the option of shielding are at higher risk of facing consequences such as long-term joint pain, fever, brain fog, and more.  These negative effects can be even greater for marginalized groups who may struggle to access healthcare, resources, and who have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic. Preventing the spread of COVID is about harm reduction and we all need to do our part.

The recent wave of cases brought on by the Omicron variant has been unprecedented. Comparing new cases on February 1st 2021 and 2022 shows an increase of 653% and 955% in Linn and Benton county, respectively.  Additionally, Sheldon Flom, VP of Finance and Operations has reported that 218 members of the LBCC community have tested positive for the virus (so far) during winter term. About 25% of those people were college employees. The more in-person classes our college offers, the higher the likelihood that people in our communities will become infected and develop serious long-term health effects. 

There may be an end to this pandemic in sight, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. In-person classes require more employees and students to return to campus, which many are not interested in doing. This could lead to disastrous results by increasing the transmission of COVID-19 and the possibility of suffering from long Covid. By limiting in-person classes, the LBCC community can confidently carve a path through the current uncertainty towards a safe and more equitable future for all.