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Martin Center column highlights impact of no lab, facility access

Megan Zogby writes for the Martin Center about one key problem linked to online-only college education.

Though online teaching has dominated the college semester, not all teachers are equally skilled at it. Professors, teaching assistants, and adjuncts all range in age. Younger faculty and staff members are generally more comfortable with new technology. Older faculty and staff are less acquainted with Zoom, proctoring software, and online lecturing.

The difference in tech-savviness can cause major learning inequalities. If one professor isn’t good at teaching a foreign language online compared to another professor, for example, some students will have a leg up. The inconsistency leads to students getting different levels of quality in their education.

For some students, the loss of in-person lab time and learning has dramatically harmed their education.

The interactive labs seem more like video games, said Paige Barrett, a junior at NC State studying life sciences. Her online lab portal cost her $50 to access, and it “looked like it was made by a second-grader,” she said.

Students are paying for state-of-the-art education, but for quickly built online classes, they’re sometimes getting teaching assistants who are overwhelmed as they try to make up for the university’s shortcomings.

When NC State switched to online classes for the fall, Leah Hauser, a junior in the Art and Design program, lost access to studio space, the textiles spinning lab, laser cutters, and wood shops. That made it difficult for her to become a better artist and learn design skills. Yet Hauser still pays full tuition.

Though Hauser noted that her professors tried to get students access to facilities and supplies, leaders in the Art and Design program didn’t have a backup plan in case in-person classes didn’t last, even though this was promised by the school over the summer.

Students in the natural sciences face similar problems.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...