ASU's recent announcement that the University plans to return to in-person instruction for the Fall 2021 semester was met with mixed reactions by students. Many are excited to be going back to in-person instruction, others are doubtful that ASU will successfully pull this off, and some still do not feel safe going to campus.
According to the Feb. 15 announcement, select courses will still be offered through Sync and iCourses, and the University is prepared to shift back to online operations if guidelines require it, but where does that leave students for whom Sync is a beneficial change enabling them to achieve their goals more easily and safely?
This plan is confusing since last year ASU was humming a completely different tune. ASU was praising Sync for being innovative and the future of education. Sync seemed like a permanent aspect of ASU's educational resources, considering that the University wired up hundreds of classrooms across campus with technology to host classes in person and over Zoom.
Although some people dislike ASU Sync, finding it difficult to learn virtually, others find Sync more practical. Many students with children, students with disabilities, or students who commute long distances to campus benefited from the flexibility that came with Sync.
However, now that ASU plans to get rid of Sync as a widely-offered option, this is no longer possible.
"I think, like a lot of my peers, I'm excited to be able to have some sense of normality, but after how the last year has been I'm cautiously optimistic, especially with these variants," said Olivia Perryman, a senior studying political science.
We also have to look at the financial implications when considering what went into the decision to limit Sync to only select courses. ASU spent over $12 million of CARES Act funding on ASU Sync over the two financial quarters ending Sept. 30 and Dec. 31, 2020.
Although ASU Sync isn't perfect, it is a good alternative to in-person classes, and ASU seemingly did put effort into its online system. Most students and professors are much more comfortable with the platform now, compared to its early stages.
Now that ASU is planning to reduce the use of Sync, it feels like the University is throwing money away. It feels wasteful. ASU invested in this intricate virtual system of education, and now administrators are just setting it aside.
Although projections show that most of the country will be vaccinated by the fall semester, it feels irresponsible to make this announcement before we actually see the rollout happen. Graphs are a good indicator of the future, but only time will tell. After all, remember when we were told that it would only take ten weeks to flatten the curve?
We can't predict the future, so it is difficult to understand the reasoning behind why ASU would make this announcement so early.
It would be more prudent to wait a bit longer, at least until the end of May, when President Joe Biden predicts that any adult American will be able to get a vaccine, rather than making a decision early and having to go back on their word, causing unnecessary sadness and panic to the ASU community.
"I think keeping ASU Sync as an option would overall be the best option," Perryman said. "It allows students to stay home if they feel ill, so there would be less spread of germs overall, but it also allows for flexibility if students have personal conflicts or events going on."
ASU could possibly do more in-person classes, but why not continue to make Sync an option for those who do not feel comfortable with going to in-person classes, or those who prefer Sync due to other factors?
The main critique that I have heard when discussing the use of Zoom for in-person classes is that many professors may find the technology confusing. Although it may be a learning curve, ASU has a technology office for this reason.
Overall, it is clear that the pros outweigh the cons with ASU Sync. The University should go back on its decision to reduce the use of Sync for the good of the ASU community.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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Haley Tenore is the editor of the State Press Opinion Desk. Tenore is also a digital reporter for Cronkite News and a co-president of the Accessibility Coalition. This is her fourth semester on the opinion desk and second semester as editor.