Professors are overwhelmed with online courses

Illustration by Myah Anglin | The Signal

Imagine this: you’re entering the twelfth week of a pandemic-stricken, 2020 fall semester at Georgia State, waiting urgently — for weeks — on email responses from three out of four of your professors. Almost everything you’re assigned feels like busywork, and one of them has yet to grade a single assignment. 

How passionate are you about being a student right now?

On the contrary, imagine you are a professor with more assignments to grade and less time to do it now that most classes are virtual (and the in-person ones require extreme social distancing measures). You are overworked, overwhelmed and aren’t getting paid any extra for the stress. 

How passionate are you about being an instructor right now?

Bridging the communication gap between students and professors — particularly in virtual class spaces — is a necessary endeavor. After all, nobody should expect students to fully commit to their school work if their professors can no longer fully commit to teaching.

From vague grading to assignment overload and Zoom issues, it seems as though instructors are burning out alongside their students at this point in the semester. In a poll that I recently conducted on Reddit, 141 of over 200 anonymous Georgia State students claimed that instructor burnout is negatively affecting their ability to learn. 

“I don’t even feel like I’m taking classes. [I’m] just filling out worksheets from a mysterious void,” student Mat Shankute said in the comments. 

Similarly, an anonymous student thinks it is “infuriating and stressful” to be so far into the semester and yet so clueless about their grades.

Though Georgia State’s first full-length semester of mostly online learning concludes soon, things are likely to be the same way in the spring. With that said, it is critical to explore ways for the university to support both students and professors during such an uncertain time. 

As far as student support goes, the university could incorporate social-emotional learning (SEL) practices into virtual classrooms next spring. Both Thiel College in Pennsylvania and the University of Wisconsin have tested the SEL method, which would help students with self-assessment, emotional management, decision-making and more. Furthermore, it would ideally promote better communication with professors.

In addition, Georgia State should check in on both parties more regularly this could mean anything from online surveys to reliable email updates. Whatever the means, university officials need to closely monitor how both their students and employees are faring right now.

It is crucial to recognize that many professors have worked hard to keep their classes alive during this time. According to The Signal , professor opinions on the university’s new teaching strategies “varied across departments” back in August. Some were ready for a smooth transition to virtual learning, while others faced more challenging obstacles.

“I only have one professor that hasn’t graded a single assignment and has been all over the place,” student Tryphose Asra said in the poll comments, “everyone else has been on it.”

There is real hope for improvement next semester, but the university has to intervene on some level and relieve everyone involved. Professors are working employees and deserve to be appropriately accommodated by their employers; students are paying for their education and deserve to receive it.