By: Shlomit Ebbin  | 

Overwhelming Majority of Undergraduate Classes Online for the Entire Fall Semester

The overwhelming majority of undergraduate classes will continue online when students return to campus after Sukkot break on Oct. 19, according to the MyYU student portal. 

All classes will be conducted online and campuses will be closed to undergraduate students until Oct. 19. Following Sukkot break, undergraduate classes will have various instruction formats. By undergraduate college, the breakdown of courses marked online for the entire semester is 71% at Stern College for Women (SCW), 85.5% at Yeshiva College (YC) and 100% at Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB). Approximately 28% of SCW courses and 14.5% of YC courses are classified as blended, with less than 1% of face-to-face classes at SCW and none at YC. According to the Registrar, “blended classes” contain “a blend of both face to face and online instruction, whereby online instruction replaces or supplements face to face meeting time. The online portion of the course may be synchronous or asynchronous.”

While on-campus housing applications were due by July 24, students were not notified about their class’ statuses until a few weeks later. Dean of SSSB Noam Wasserman sent out an email on Aug. 6 stating that for “all Sy Syms courses on both campuses, the core mode of teaching will consist of online instruction that mixes asynchronous teaching and live-online teaching.” SCW and YC students also received an email on Aug. 6 from various undergraduate deans,  informing them that the “students’ Self-Service” on MyYU will indicate their classes’ mode of instruction.

Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) will continue after the break with 67.75% of its classes and shiurim in person and only 32.25% online. Within UTS, 63% of the Mazer Yeshiva Program’s shiurim are online and 37% are face-to-face, 40% of the Stone Beit Midrash Program’s shiurim are online and 60% are face-to-face, and Isaac Breuer College and James Striar School each have 28.6% of their classes online and 71.4% face-to-face. The parallel Jewish studies classes on the Beren Campus are included in SCW and are all marked as online or blended, including those that normally contain a beit midrash component. 

On the Wilf and Beren campuses, between YC, SCW and SSSB, there are nearly 350 and 400 classes on each campus, respectively, with about 300 on each taking place online for the entire semester. The only class marked as face-to-face instruction for after the holidays is the “Money and Banking” Economics class on the Beren Campus, according to MyYU. The Beren Campus will hold 103 blended classes, and the Wilf Campus will offer 37. 

“In deciding whether classes should be online, face-to-face, or blended, we took into account a number of factors,” stated Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Selma Botman on the community call on Aug. 1. “We asked ourselves what’s the best approach for each academic discipline. We came up with a plan to have fully online, blended, and fully face to face instruction.” Additionally, YU faculty members were given technological training over the summer break to prepare for online learning. 

Some students voiced their excitement about the possibility of returning to the classroom. “I was just really excited to have an in person class,” shared Lily Polinetsky (SCW ‘22), a student enrolled in Multivariable Calculus, a blended class that will have a face-to-face option after the holidays. “It’s really great to know that I'm going in and I'll be able to sit, even if it's far apart, and be able to talk about class, have that interaction, and make new friends.”

“It's unfortunate that we have to be online this semester, but I'm thankful that the administration and professors have been working through the summer to try to create innovative ways of making this semester productive,” said Wilf Student Life Committee Co-Chair Jonah Loskove (SSSB ‘22), a student who will continue classes online after Sukkot. 

Both YC and SCW science professors have adjusted their lab courses to accommodate all students, whether they return to campus or continue with remote learning. Wilf Chemistry Department Co-Chair Rajalakshmi Viswanathan told The Commentator that her department is preparing to “offer laboratory courses in both modalities.” Other lab professors in the biology and engineering departments are planning on having online lab simulations and home-lab kits. 

“We’ll have one faculty member manning the screen with the students who are remote working on the kit, and another faculty member in the lab hands on with the students in the lab,” said Dean of Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Science Karen Bacon. “If we do it well, it really is a model for things we might do in the future. I think science, which is one of the strengths of YU, will continue to be a dynamic experience this fall, and I think we’re going to learn from it some things that will actually help us in the future when we’re all back on campus again.”

Some students are still concerned with having online labs this semester. “I think the university is doing their best and is using many great and advanced resources in order to best simulate the virtual lab experience,” shared Shoshanah Marcus (SCW ‘22). “However, I don’t believe that an online lab can truly capture the hands-on experiments that are conducted in person. As a pre-med student, I am especially worried I won’t get the proper lab experience while working remotely.”

Faced with another semester of online learning, some professors are working to make their students feel comfortable and succeed academically. “We also recognize that this is an incredibly stressful time for both students and faculty. Our classes will necessarily reflect that, with the knowledge that many students are not in ideal learning environments, and that we are all contending with the psychological demands of a global pandemic,” YC English Department Head Rachel Mesch told The Commentator. “We hope that our classes can create space for students to be reflective, while supplying them with the tools for doing so.”

Photo Caption: Only one class is marked as face-to-face for the fall semester.
Photo Credit: The Commentator