We need more face-to-face classes at NVC – Napa Valley Register | Team Cansler

Sacia Novak

I write about the changes from face-to-face to online instruction at Napa Valley College (NVC) and its impact on student learning and mental health.

It made sense to move classes from in-person to online during the peak of the pandemic, but the pandemic is now manageable with safety precautions (masks and vaccines), yet NVC continues to hold many of its classes online. K-12 schools have all returned to in-person instruction, many jobs have relocated or are in the process of returning to the office, and critical jobs continue to see clients in person.

I contacted several college officials to find out the reasons for the college’s steadfast investment in offering the majority of its courses online. Here are some of the reasons and statements I heard from college officials: “Students are having trouble with transportation and gas.” “Class size was too small.” “There are technical issues for face-to-face contact, so the class is meeting online until these issues are resolved.” “Office hours will only be on Zoom to accommodate online students.” “Online courses fill up faster.” “Online courses are more popular.” “Students want and need the flexibility of online classes .” “Students have to reconcile work, family and school.” The reasons and excuses never end!

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It’s no surprise that our educators didn’t say “online classes are better for student mental health” or “online learning is superior to face-to-face learning” because we know that’s not true, but in the realm of education nonetheless of students are active!

Studies show that students learn best when they are tutored in person. A perfect example is the recent test scores of the K-12 grades, where students’ test scores dropped significantly as a result of online instruction. Students taking online courses tend to be less attentive, more distracted, tend to multitask during online classes, and classes often compete with other assignments. Some students only have a cell phone to use for online classes, and some students share a room with siblings who are also online, as well as their parents, who continue to work from home. How can this atmosphere be better than attending a class at college where there is a personal professor, a specific time and space dedicated and conducive to academic learning?

In addition, the development of social skills and meaningful relationships is severely hampered when only online courses are offered. Our youth are more isolated than ever. Some students cannot even name a friend they would contact if they needed help. Many students have become accustomed to online learning and do not want to leave the comfort zone of their bedroom and interact with “real people”. How does this form of teaching prepare them for the real world? In the dormitories that are being built, will students sit in their dormitories and “attend” classes? To go to face-to-face classes, you need to shower, get dressed, and prepare all materials for class. All of this increases self-confidence, academic intent, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

I believe that online teaching has also eroded student-teacher relationships. Face-to-face teaching fosters positive working relationships between students and teachers, often resulting in increased confidence, academic success, and mentorship. Given all of these factors, are we willing to take a risk with this generation of adults? Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

NVC has focused on mitigating the dangers and risks of COVID-19, but I believe the mental health of its students has been severely neglected. Mental health disorders such as anxiety, learning disabilities, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, substance abuse and suicide have risen sharply, while therapy, counseling and treatment for mental health disorders have declined sharply. Trying to get an appointment for individual therapy is very challenging and expensive. Often people are left without services or referred to group treatment for several hours a week with poor results.

I have to wonder, is it really the students who are demanding online learning or is it the professors who don’t want to teach the students in person? There are many students who learn better through face-to-face tutoring, there are many students who want the “college experience” without going to college, and there are many students who love learning and the traditional and time-tested method of Received greatly miss their personal training. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if we continue this form of teaching, there will be no need for a brick-and-mortar Napa Valley College. Does NVC want to compete with the onslaught of online colleges or create a niche for providing quality in-person education to the Napa community?

On behalf of many NVC students, offer more face-to-face classes in the coming semesters.

Sacia Novak is a resident of Napa.

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