Do Students Benefit From In-Person or Virtual Classes?

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Young adults participating in hybrid learning, sharing their time between in-person classes and studying online from home, EPS 8 vector illustration

As UNLV students are getting settled back into their class routine for the 2023 spring semester, many students are still finding themselves weighing the pros and cons of taking online courses.

Noticeably gaining popularity (and maintaining a lot of it) during the COVID-19 pandemic, online courses continue to be a primary option for students. Particularly at UNLV, where many students commute to campus, online classes have retained popularity.

With such a diverse student body demographic, UNLV currently offers 300 online and hybrid courses per semester, which are expected to be taken by over 20,000 UNLV students.

Although online classes are becoming more accessible to students at UNLV, does this necessarily mean they are beneficial? Would UNLV students be better off taking all in-person classes to raise the quality of their education?

“It disincentivizes community when you have online classes,” said Ethan Hsiao, a freshman at Harvard University. “Especially with commuter schools that struggle with a sense of community and engagement.”

Hsiao continued, saying that online classes remove an integral piece of the college experience. 

“If you no longer have the requirement of coming to class in-person for live lectures, you remove the opportunity for students to engage with other students,” said Hsiao. “I feel like that’s such an integral part of the college experience that it really does an injustice to the students and to the college.”

Hsiao then expressed that one of the main things he has enjoyed about college is meeting all sorts of people in informal interactions, as even the people he has met randomly still have an impact on him. 

After experiencing online learning throughout high school in Nevada, Hsiao made it clear that in-person classes are easily his first choice in regards to learning.

Currently, UNLV offers 14 online degree and certificate programs, meaning these online classes offer a way to succeed in a myriad of professional routes.

The way in which students participate in online learning at UNLV ranges anywhere from video conferencing to lecture capture to WebCampus. UNLV also offers assistance programs for students to borrow a laptop or get internet service.

Not only is UNLV adapting to the popularity of online classes, but universities and school systems nation-wide are too, such as community colleges in California, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. This is a result of the significant demand for online education according to a survey by CHLOE 7

With the spike in popularity for these classes, studies such as one completed in Irvine by the University at Albany found that students are likely to graduate faster with online classes. However, graduating faster does not equate to retaining the same amount or quality of information.

In that sense, there are undeniable negatives. According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Education, online learning may not be as beneficial as most believe it to be.

When determining whether or not these classes are the best option for UNLV students, one must consider the climate of a commuter school. 

In a university where a large portion of the population would rather work during the day and schedule coursework around such, online courses are definitely deemed the more appealing option.

Even for those residing on campus, online courses may offer the opportunity to catch up with lectures where they might not be able to in an in-person lecture hall of over 100 other students.

While the workload is not meant to be less in an online modular course, taking such would hypothetically allow for many students to have a more flexible schedule, encouraging students to become more involved in their school activities.

However, over the past few years at UNLV, reality has proven that getting students on campus in a physical classroom is the true booster of student involvement on campus.

Ultimately, encouraging students to take online classes is the most convenient option, but in-person classes would much more improve the school spirit of UNLV and allow students to get the most out of their tuition with in-person connections to professors, the UNLV campus and course content.

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