Student in class

WVU students on the Evansdale campus on Friday Sept. 3rd 2021.

The pandemic brought about a sudden shift away from in-person instruction, and now WVU offers more online classes than in previous years.

From fall 2018 to spring 2020, an average of 12.5% of all courses were offered online. Now that number is 15%.

But students don’t seem to like it that way. 

Evan Widders, associate provost for Undergraduate Education, said undergraduate students generally prefer in-person classes based on surveys sent out this past year.

“This has been a consistent refrain in many of the surveys we have done since at least 2018 and is often mentioned in relation to the number of hours our students work outside of school,” Widders said.

He added that other students like having flexible schedules, which include a mix of hybrid and online classes, but the majority like being back on campus.

But, in some cases, sections of a course  may only be offered online, leaving some students with no other choice.

Students once again face fees for taking online courses — $75 per course. This cost does not apply to online degree programs, which have a separate fee.

The online student support fee was suspended this past academic year due to the pandemic. 

Widders said that WVU will likely continue to see a slight increase in online courses offered to students, due to accommodations made available to faculty and students.

“Between those two factors, I would guess that our online offerings will remain slightly elevated over where they have been in the past and that we would be satisfied to remain in this range over the next year,” Widders said. “As always, we will continue to monitor our courses closely and adjust as necessary.”

The proportion of university students who took courses online during the pandemic is much higher than the Department of Education originally estimated.

This month, Inside Higher Ed estimated that over half of all students took at least one online class in 2019-2020.

In fall 2020, WVU offered over 4,000 online courses to students, a 423% increase from the previous semester.

Widders said there are a few reasons for the increase in online classes over the previous years.

“One of the most important reasons is faculty accommodations, meaning faculty who have gone for health reasons have gotten approval to teach online,” said Widders. “We expect that hopefully, as COVID declines, a lot of those will probably go away.”

He said many of the faculty continue to teach online, which resulted in additional online classes for the fall semester.

While many instructors still offer online classes, students who wish to learn in an online format must pay $75 per course. The online student support fee was suspended this past academic year due to the pandemic.

This cost does not apply to online degree programs, which have a separate fee.

The University also implemented new technology in classrooms to improve online resources and tools. Most classrooms have been updated so professors can livestream or take video recordings of lectures.

“We want students to be able to have the freedom to take online classes when it helps them to do everything else that's going on in their lives,” said Widders. “On the other hand, we never want to see a return to the COVID situation where almost all our classes are online. We don't think that's the way this institution should go.”