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With the majority of classes being taught virtually this semester, some STEM students are reporting overtime lectures and unfair work expectations, despite having regular schedules with assigned class times.
Pharmacy student Sihyun Kim is currently enrolled in the course Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. According to Kim, her instructor regularly exceeds the allotted lecture time by 20 minutes.
“When some students told her that she needs to end the lecture on time so that students can get to their next (in-person) classes, she simply told them they can just leave and watch the recording later,” Kim said.
LSA junior Maddy McPherson shared Kim’s concerns regarding lectures going overtime. McPherson is currently taking a four-credit biochemistry course with multiple lectures and a discussion each week.
This semester, the course is formatted so that students can listen to pre-recorded lectures when it is convenient for them. During the assigned lecture time, the professor holds an optional Q&A discussion that is also recorded for any student who is unable to attend.
McPherson said this format has affected most of the duration of the course’s lectures by allowing instructors to teach over the time allotted. McPherson also expressed feeling obligated to attend the Q&A session in order to fully understand the material taught during lectures.
“In a normal semester, we’re supposed to have lecture for two and a half hours and a discussion that’s about an hour and a half hours (per week),” McPherson said. “Now that the class is online, lectures are now going over time. Office hours are optional but help clarify the material, so it feels mandatory if you want to do well.”
With two lectures and a discussion that should each last 80 minutes, class time is expected to total to four hours each week, but McPherson said she found that she devoted nearly six and half hours of her week attending that single class, not including study time.
LSA professor Randy Stockbridge is one of the two instructors of an introductory biochemistry course. According to Stockbridge, about 20 percent of the class chooses to attend the instructor-led discussion portion of the course synchronously. More students choose to watch the recording later.
Stockbridge said the instructing team decided to format class time this way because they were hoping to give students another way to engage with the material and the professors.
“Normally during a class period, we do active learning activities like iClicker questions and there’s the opportunity for the instructor to ask, ‘OK, does this make sense? Are there any questions at this point in the lecture?’” Stockbridge said. “We just don’t have that with the format where we just record lectures. We thought it would serve the students better to have sort of a standardized format in which these questions could be taken.”
Stockbridge said she was unaware of any complaints from students, but mentioned that the instructing team intends to hold a discussion later in the semester to address any concerns from students about the class format.
Introduction to Electronic Circuits is another class that often extends over its allotted time, Engineering junior Emily Grim said.
The course is four credits, and includes two lectures, one discussion and one lab to complete each week. The course instructor also posts pre-recorded videos for students to watch in advance of the lecture.
Grim said the main issue with this format is a lack of clarity regarding what components of the class she should prioritize to succeed. With both pre-recorded videos and synchronous lectures, Grim said she has been struggling to keep up with the intense workload.
“After a week of it, it was way too much work for me, so I decided to only watch the pre-lectures. The professor made it sound like they were the majority of the material, and the Zoom lectures were just doing examples,” Grim said.
By not attending the synchronous lecture portion of the class, Grim believed that she had actually missed crucial information she would need to know to pass.
“Turns out, the Zoom lectures had become the place where he was doing examples and covering important topics in more detail, despite saying you could asynchronously do the class with only the pre-lectures,” Grim said.
As an Engineering student with an already challenging course load, Grim said she was stressed about balancing her other courses given how much time she devotes to Introduction to Electronic Circuits.
Grim said she feels like the workload would be lighter if she were taking the class during a normal semester.
“I wonder how different this class would be in person,” Grim said. “My professor mentioned that some material will be skipped over compared to previous semesters, yet it seems like there’s way more content in videos I have to parse through compared to the time I would’ve spent in person.”
Daily Staff Reporter Lily Gooding can be reached at email@example.com.
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