Northeastern Illinois University’s halls remain empty as the university transitions to online instruction
Northeastern Illinois University’s halls remain empty as the university transitions to online instruction

Instructors are grading students on their ability to teach themselves. Just end the semester.

April 8, 2020

Northeastern Illinois University’s decision to move forward with the remainder of its spring semester is a clear acknowledgment that the grade matters more than the instruction that precedes it. 

After returning from an extended spring break, students are essentially tasked with educating themselves absent of hands-on instruction or indispensable educational resources while educators grade their ability to do so.  Such method of “instruction” violates the core tenet of higher education, which is to, you know, educate students. 

In a previous article written by NEIU Independent writer Jack Poskus, NEIU students shared how the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their professional and academic routines. While students generally agreed with the university’s decision to suspend face-to-face instruction, many disagree with NEIU bullying its students into accepting online instruction. 

“I think it’s just harder to learn online and I’ve never been a fan of online classes,” said Vanessa Campos, a communications, media and theater major. “The worst part now is that my whole schedule is messed up.”

Of course, discontentment with NEIU’s course of action isn’t an indictment on the many fantastic educators struggling to salvage a lost semester. Instead, Northeastern Illinois University–like many institutions of higher education across the nation–placed their staff in an impossible position despite understanding the incompatibilities between some coursework and online instruction. 

Unfortunately, as students struggle to cope with the harsh reality of mass layoffs, mandated isolation and human sacrifices masquerading as “essential employment,” NEIU demands its students–who are also very real human beings with very real emotions–remain invested in a collection of final assignments unaided by teachers’ guidance. 

But of course NEIU chose this route. To discontinue the rest of the semester would equate to forfeiting revenue. NEIU leadership, which is still charging many of its students the full semester’s balance and parking fees, elected to provide students with three options, each less desirable than the next. 

First, students can withdraw from classes unpenalized. Of course, doing so means voluntarily surrendering the points accrued between January and March. 

Students may also elect to remain enrolled in their classes despite minimal benefit from an educational standpoint.  Many departments at NEIU mercifully adopted a pass/fail option, which operates as a de facto concession that the educational standards are so thoroughly diminished that the university actually deems it unfair to grade students using its traditional letter grade model. 

But assigning readings and homework problems doesn’t pass as college-level instruction. Offering stunted, delayed and abbreviated correspondence via email isn’t on par with the prestigious standards of higher education. At this point, NEIU is burdening its student body with unnecessary academic requirements amid the devastating impact of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

Let’s cut the losses. Let’s collectively sever this misguided marriage to a tarnished spring semester and allow everyone involved to regroup while removed from the demands of college. Award students the grade they’ve earned up to this point in the semester while providing those unsatisfied with their current grade the opportunity to raise it. 

At the moment, there’s no NEIU community. There’s minimal transaction between student and instructor. There’s just a disassembled collection of students frantically hammering away at their keyboards, intimidated by the prospect of consequence that may or may not accompany disconnecting from a perished semester.

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