Editor’s Note: This first appeared in the September 17 flipbook issue.
As the University plans to shift most classes back in person next week, some UT professors still plan to offer hybrid models.
Some UT professors say they will continue to offer an online option for students who are sick or uncomfortable attending classes in person as Austin continues to operate under Stage 5 COVID-19 restrictions, which are reserved for the most severe levels of community spread.
They hope this option will protect the UT community from COVID-19.
“If I can make things just a little bit easier and a little bit gentler to navigate through, through the technology that we’ve got, then I want to do that,” Mathematics assistant professor Kirk Blazek said.
Blazek said his class offers both an in-person and an online option because he wants students to be safe, and he doesn’t want to make them feel like they are forced to attend in person class to learn.
“What if you’re not necessarily sick, but you’ve been exposed to somebody who’s sick, and so you need to go through a couple of weeks of quarantine?” Blazek said. “I don’t want you to feel like your grade is in trouble or your schooling is going to get penalized because you’re trying to do the right thing. I feel like that would be grossly unfair.”
Blazek said he teaches a class of about 100 students, with less than half attending class in person. Blazek said he prefers this because his classroom is not big enough for his class to socially distance when at full capacity.
“I’m actually really grateful when I see my class and it’s mostly empty, because that tells me that if something goes wrong, it will not go too wrong,” Blazek said. “There’s no … worse way to fail than to put somebody’s health and safety in jeopardy.”
Chemistry associate professor Andrei Straumanis said students should attend class in person to benefit from collaboration with other students. However, Straumanis said students should have the option to join remotely if anyone is sick or uncomfortable attending in person.
Straumanis said his class has 300 students, and about 75% of them attend in person.
“I think I’m always going to give a Zoom option going forward forever,” Straumanis said. “I’m never going to give that up because of the power of Zoom. I want everyone to be trained on Zoom so that they can meet their groups outside of class without having to cross campus.”
Chemistry junior Dylan Sharratt, a student in Straumanis’ class, said he feels safe attending class in person because most students wear masks, and those who are sick can stay home without consequence.
“(Professors’) emphasis on staying home if you are sick and offering … recording lectures, streaming lectures through Zoom or offering make-up labs does make me feel a lot safer because it means students won’t be inclined to come to class sick,” Sharratt said in an email. “If that part wasn’t in place, I would feel more concerned with COVID-19 spread.”