While having a wider, or unlimited, variety of classes available online would be convenient in some ways, some problems keep this from being a reality. For example, certain science classes can’t just let their students run lab experiments in their bedroom or kitchen just because the student is taking their online course. They need a lab, they need special equipment and they probably need supervision, at least at the beginning. That does not work at home. The same thing applies to things like electrical work, woodworking, hairdressing and other such hands-on topics. That’s the reason they’re called hands-on. They need to be done in the physical presence of an instructor, at least part of the time. Does this mean that they can’t be partially online classes? Not necessarily. However, if we tried to make all classes at every university online ones, we risk leaving our students without necessary experience for their careers and possibly risk their own or others’ health in the process.
Obviously, it is unfortunate to need to host all classes online, however, there are many cases in which this is the most accessible way to attend a class. If a student has a compromised immune system, should they have to give up halfway through their semester? That is obviously unfair to that student. I’m not saying every class needs to have a binary version that is online-only, but a contingency plan should be available for those who need it. Obviously, the current situation sheds new light on the subject. In the event of an emergency, shouldn’t at least some form of online curriculum be available, and easy to switch to? Rather than have a situation in which professors must hurry to change formats, create Canvas modules and edit homework policy, wouldn’t it make more sense to have an online curriculum pre-made that could easily be substituted in?
Yes, having online options would be very nice and convenient if some sort of problem came up, even if it were a relatively mild one rather than something as drastic as we have going on with the virus right now. It would allow for the chance to make up or keep up with hard-to-access classes or labs and allow people with difficult circumstances a better chance at starting or continuing studies. However, it lacks a little when it comes to teaching. As mentioned earlier, online classes lack a hands-on approach. Maybe some don’t need that. However, videos and discussion boards can’t completely replace face-to-face conversation. Since roughly sixty percent of human communication comes from body language and tone is hard to interpret via the written word, things might get lost in translation between teacher and students, or between fellow students. What happens if a student has a very difficult issue to discuss with the teacher or the class. Live videos would capture all communication facets in a conversation the best, but, if it needed the whole group of students, it would be difficult to broadcast to an entire class without potentially causing more confusion. Online classes might be convenient, but they’re not necessarily more useful.
The point that lab classes and certain lectures are better understood in person is valid. Obviously, a student has no access to an academic lab, and mail-order kits are often way overpriced and provide only a rudimentary version of a lab. However, with the internet, it is possible to have pre-filmed lab exercises, interactive programs and even live lab meetings where students can ask questions about the lab in real-time. This is obviously not ideal, but would still provide a facsimile to a student in a compromised situation. This would also provide students an opportunity to catch up on a lab they may miss for a valid reason. In most cases, a missed lab means an automatic zero for the grade. I think it is unreasonable to give someone a zero for missing a lab when they could have had a reasonable reason to be absent. In this case, an online option would help lessen the stress on a student already under pressure from other circumstances.