I should join the circus. I got really good at juggling while learning to juggle all the things that I have to do in a week. I used to be stressed about dropping the ball all the time. Before the pandemic, I juggled three jobs, school, housework and managing my disability. I had next to no free time. But with the increase in access to online education, the flexibility has allowed me to manage my disability, work a full-time job and squeeze some free time in there as well. But with the lack of online options for classes available this fall, I have realized how much harder my little juggling act was going to get very soon.

I think increasing the number of online class options is not only a smart idea, but it's the right thing to do. Accessibility is a mutually beneficial relationship. If you provide online and on-campus options, you can open up the university to people who would have never thought higher education was an option. Nontraditional students are in dire need of flexible schooling options. If a degree is about the grit and intellect behind the person, why are we making it harder for nontraditional students to get one?

Personally, I don't see why making more online classes available isn't already a top priority. It makes sense from both a business and ethical standpoint. In a conversation about online education, the digital divide is typically brought up as the primary obstacle. If there is a digital divide present within our student body, it needs to be corrected regardless of the online class conversation. Computers and Wi-Fi are already required to complete coursework even when your classes are on campus and are necessary for all students to have access to. The University of Tennessee provides information about the digital divide and the areas in our state that it affects, which can be found here. If we know who it affects and how, it is imperative that we take immediate action to close it.

Recorded class material can be reused multiple times. I heard of all the stress that our professors went through to produce the material for online classes throughout the pandemic. Many of the classes I took had videos or recorded lectures for me to view. That material can be reused multiple times, and sometimes free up the professor’s time so they can provide more office hours or individualized instruction for those who are struggling.

It is no secret that the parking on campus is horrific. Projects to add more parking are already underway, but even with the planned additions, it is well known that the situation will still remain nightmarish. Providing online classes would keep people from coming to campus as often and open up some parking for people who want to be on campus. If the university can decrease costs associated with having the students on campus and increase profits from increasing enrollment and potentially even their graduation rate, you’d think that increasing the number of online options would be an obvious choice.

There would still be plenty of students coming to live on campus to go to in-person classes. It is undeniable that online classes are not providing the traditional college experience that many people seek out and cherish. And living on campus is a great option for students who want to learn to be independent of their parents, make connections with other students and participate in campus life.

But not every student wants or needs this. Some students are working adults. Some students have children. Some students have disabilities. Some people’s lives don’t allow them to live on campus. They have to make long, and sometimes labor-intensive commutes that disrupt their whole day. Those people are not the people who are paying to live on campus anyway, there would be nothing lost to the university if we gave them the option to make their life easier.

If there is a subject that can't be taught effectively online, making the classes that can be easily taught online available would still free up more time for someone than if they had to go on campus for all of their classes. I see no good reason for more online class options to not be present. If there is a good reason against adding more online courses that is somehow more important than accessibility, I’d really like to hear it.

Hannah Oran is a junior on the business exploratory track. She can be reached at horan1@vols.utk.edu.

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