Virtual ‘Reality’: MCC Instructors Reflect On Choosing to Remain Online

Hayley O'Brien, Contributing Writer

As the new semester kicks off students are beginning to feel the fresh air, get some steps around campus, and open up their new books. After learning online the past year the post-pandemic return has been long-awaited. However, the expectation of leaving the screen behind for the real world maybe a little less achievable than most would have once thought.

Not everyone has made their way back to MCC’s campus. Even as the campus has been made available to everyone and in-person for the first time in months, and students have begun to reconnect on the main campus and other outposts, an overwhelming number of MCC professors plan to continue teaching virtually.

For safety, personal convenience, and a few other reasons, multiple professors have found that online instruction may not be as much of a challenge as it seemed back when online was the only option. Professor Jennifer Klingenberg notes some of the reasoning behind instructors choosing to retain their online stature, both full and part-time, could be because “Many of us [MCC staff] are really proud of what we’ve developed over the last eighteen months of remote learning.”

Even when some felt overwhelmed with the challenges of the new experience there are benefits of their resilience. English and Literature Professor Shauna Hayes suggested, “ Some instructors thrive both online and in the classroom, and for some, online might be a better ‘fit’.”

Hayes highlighted that the opportunity to try something new can change people’s perception of ‘normal’. However, there are many questions that remain after seeing such big alterations to the class roster. Most importantly, how may new class structures affect new and existing MCC students moving forward?

“…there’s a pretty high demand for online classes, which is another reason to remain online. Some students, especially working parents who are highly motivated and adept at managing time and responsibilities, thrive in online classes,” Klingenberg added.

Maybe these changes can alter MCC’s demographic, opening up new options for those who require certain circumstances for success. Additionally, Hayes commented, “Students also learned where they thrive. Some thrive in online classes and are driving the demand for them. Others realized that, although they can be successful online, they prefer the physical classroom.”

In the end, we are forced to ask, will this be a short-term trend; or, will things potentially return to pre-pandemic practices? After a few semesters of professors being given the choice will they revert back? Many believe students must wait to see what the future brings. As it stands, most would not have expected such a positive outcome of the reality of online practice, let alone the events that caused it. Both students and professors have been shown new ways of working through their responsibilities at MCC and these may take the place of how things used to be. In the end, the choice is open and ready for anyone to take advantage of what is best for them.