By Aliza Weiss
With the Spring 2021 semester rapidly approaching, President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman has announced in a December 9 email that classes for the upcoming semester will take place via four different formats: face-to-face, blended, online-synchronous, and online-asynchronous.
As Dr. Karen Bacon, Mordecai D. Katz and Dr. Monique C. Katz dean of undergraduate faculty of arts and sciences, addressed in a December 7 email to the YU Observer, “Face-to-face courses will be those in which the faculty member and all the students are on campus-F2F.” These classes will take place in person, with each student placed six feet from one another, all requiring to wear masks and abide by YU’s COVID-19 protocol. Blended courses offer the option to either be in person, or to learn remotely from any desired location. Synchronous classes will be entirely live over Zoom, and asynchronous classes will take place via pre-recorded lectures that students can listen to on their own time. These formats were later emailed to the YU undergraduate student body via Berman’s email.
Requiring students to attend classes solely in person during a global pandemic raises numerous questions and concerns. When asked what would happen if a student in a face-to-face class needed to quarantine or was denied entry to campus buildings as per the daily COVID-19 survey, Bacon shared with the YU Observer that “similar to when a student is sick during a regular semester, the faculty member and the student will work out a plan.”
Requiring some courses to be face-to-face limits the amount of course options for remote students. Dean of Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB) Noam Wasserman addressed this issue clarifying that unlike YC and SCW, all SSSB “ … courses that have a ‘face to face’ section (which is fully in person for both students and professors) also have at least one remote section in which students who are unable to be in person can enroll.”
On the Beren Campus, some examples of SCW courses only offered face-to-face, according to the My YU Spring 2021 course catalog are Molecular Biology, Essentials of Writing and Analytical Chemistry. However, courses such as Bio Principles Lab are offered online and in person. Some examples of SCW blended courses are Microbiology Lab, Dead Sea Scrolls and Speech Communication. On the Wilf Campus, there are some YC courses only offered face-to-face, such as Biochemistry Lab as well as courses offered twice, face-to-face and online, like Intermediate Hebrew I. Examples of blended YC courses are Biochemistry Lecture, Calculus II and Engineering Foundations.
The blended option for courses this Spring 2021 semester, as Bacon clarified in an email with the YU Observer, “will be those that have both on-campus and remote instruction.” Blended courses have limited space, as each student must be seated six feet apart from one another. This form of learning will have the teacher in the front of the classroom, with the camera facing them as they teach the students in the classroom while simultaneously teaching on Zoom. An example of this is Dr. Wisse’s Art History courses, which this coming spring semester will be switching from a fully online-synchronous course to a blended course.
The most common forms of learning for the Spring 2021 semester are online courses — synchronous, which will consist of live classes over Zoom, and asynchronous, which will consist of pre-recorded lectures and assignments. Many teachers have chosen to combine these forms of learning, offering pre recorded lectures and shortened live Zoom class time to prevent Zoom fatigue.
Students are advised by Bacon to verify with the professor of the course they are interested in to confirm the course format. If a student has a question of whether or not their class is live or pre-recorded, Bacon suggested that “they should reach out to the professor for clarification.” Additionally, students can view the teaching modalities, and find them listed as attributes on the online schedule.
*This article has been updated to offer an alternative example for a YC face-to-face course as well as a suggestion for students to reach out to the professor about course format questions.