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Some Tentative Suggestions for Safely Restarting In-Person Teaching at Universities

Added 05-23-20 05:21:01pm EST - “In-person teaching has major advantages over the online version. Here are some ways to restore it, while mitigating risk.” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “Some Tentative Suggestions for Safely Restarting In-Person Teaching at Universities”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

Universities around the country are pondering the question of whether and how to resume in-person teaching during the upcoming fall 2020 semester. In-person instruction has major advantages over the online version many of us have experienced this spring. But it would be foolish and irresponsible to ignore the risks of spreading Covid-19. I don't have anything approaching a comprehensive solution to this dilemma. But in this post, I offer some tentative suggestions for how in-person teaching can be restarted, while minimizing risk, while also avoiding creating an unbearable dystopian on-campus environment.

I readily acknowledge two important caveats to these suggestions. First, I am not an epidemiologist, and it is possible that new epidemiological evidence will invalidate some or even all of these ideas. Second, different institutions have different needs; ideas that may work well for some schools may be non-starters for others. My goal here is not to present a comprehensive one-size-fits-all plan that works for every institution, but rather to offer suggestions that a variety of schools could potentially consider. It may turn out that individual schools can adopt some of these ideas, but not others.

The proposals I offer rely on three key ideas. First, the advantages of in-person education are far greater for some types of classes than for others. Second, there are ways to protect faculty and students who face especially high risks without moving to a fully on-line model for the classes they teach or take. Third, discussions of the risk of in-person classes tend to implicitly assume an unrealistic baseline in which students will completely or almost completely avoid risk if they stay off-campus.

For reasons I describe here, in-person teaching has important advantages over online instruction. Among other things, in-person teaching makes it easier for faculty to make eye contact and otherwise gauge the reactions of students, and to make sure that the latter are "getting" what the instructor is saying. Being in class also makes it easier for students to stay focused and effectively interact with each other.

I base these conclusions not only on my (admittedly limited) experience this semester, but also on years of prior experience teaching law students and undergraduates at several schools in the United States, and also at universities in Argentina and China. That experience includes a number of online classes and lectures, as well as many in-person ones. Still, these conclusions would be worth little if they were just my idiosyncratic views, based on perhaps unrepresentative experiences. However, recent surveys of students indicate that they too overwhelmingly prefer in-person instruction, and believe it makes it easier for them to learn.

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