The University of Texas at Tyler sparked a lot of conversation when it announced the majority of classes for the Fall 2020 semester were going to be online. In the days following the news, students, parents, faculty, and locals spoke out on their opinion of if tuition should be lowered.
Britney Jo Wallace is a full time student in her senior year at UT Tyler. Initially, she registered for one online class and three in-person classes for the Fall semester. As of last week, only two of them are in-person and the rest are online, but this is still subject to change.
“Everything that I am doing in these [online] classes, I could do on my own,” Wallace said. “There are no lectures, so it feels to me that I am not actually being taught and only paying for a degree.”
There tends to be a blurred line between virtual learning and online courses. The majority of faculty and students don’t know the difference.
Virtual learning utilizes computer softwares to deliver instruction to students whereas online classes are solely constructed to be over the Internet without synchronous meetings or recorded lectures.
“I do feel that tuition should be lowered,” Wallace said. “I believe I am paying the same tuition for online classes that I had been for in-person lectures. It doesn’t seem that I am necessarily getting what I paid for.”
So, why do we believe online courses should be cheaper than in-person classes?
In reality, there have been a handful of online education colleges that have advertised they have more affordable education options. This is possible because these ‘colleges’ do not have extra costs for buildings, excess staff other than professors, or taxes from the state.
Freshman marketing major Cholie Devillier expressed that she is “a hands-on learner.” Devillier has only one hybrid course this semester, the rest of her classes are strictly online.
“I like to ask questions and get an immediate response,” Devillier said. “I like to verbally collaborate with my peers when I don’t understand a topic. I thrive off of in-person classes.”
This has not been possible for Devillier this semester. She has had to try and adapt to the new way of learning by becoming best friends with her computer screen.
“I feel like I will do poorly this semester due to this reason. I don’t do well staring at a computer screen all day and reading chapter after chapter on e-textbook. I’m trying my best to adapt to this new way of learning, but I definitely am not a fan of it,” Devillier expressed.
Online courses can cost less per student, but if more students enroll, the cost of developing the course increases. In the end, online education can actually cost more than the traditional face-to-face equivalent, especially when it is a new territory.
“I don’t have a definitive answer of whether [tuition] should be lowered or not, but I believe it is definitely something that should be discussed,” junior Elementary Education major Whitney Bacon said.
None of her professors are using Zoom for online lectures. Instead, they have made modules on Canvas for their students to follow.
Only one of her in-person classes offer the synchronous Zoom option for the students who cannot attend class physically.
“I think it will be a very long time before things are back to ‘normal,” Bacon said. “This is unchartered territory for students and professors alike, so I feel the best thing we can do is respond with grace.”
Whether you agree that tuition should be lowered or not, we can agree that this semester has been out-of-the-norm. Both students and professors have had to step out of their comfort zone and try to adapt to this new way of learning.
Only time will tell if Zoom University will make its appearance again next semester.