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Opinion: Verbal participation during online learning should not be mandatory

Multiple forms of involvement should be accommodated
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FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY
FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY

Amongst the various forms of ideas meant to garner more in-class engagement in online classes, mandatory verbal participation is one that should be removed. Professors who make it so students must vocally participate in class fail to consider not only the anxiety this induces, but also that other less intimidating forms of participation exist.

Mandatory verbal participation in online classes should be completely replaced by offering multiple means of participation. Not completing mandatory verbal participation tasks can induce endless feelings of failure, and during this particular time, they serve no other purpose besides adding onto the tremendous stress that students already bear. 

It’s great for those who would love to lead discussions and voice their opinions directly to the class, and I understand it’s probably meant to make online classes more engaging. However, it’s a completely different picture for some students, especially those uncomfortable with public speaking. Speaking out loud while being stared at by countless faces on the screen can be very anxiety-inducing, especially in this time when everything seems so unnecessarily amplified.

There is also the reality that not everyone is able to verbally speak up during class. Some students do not live or study in an environment quiet enough for them to participate. This policy alienates these students on top of increasing anxiety.

I’m certain that this is not the initial objective of posing a mandatory demand on participation. One could argue that if there’s no obligation to respond to the professor, then there would be no interaction at all. 

However, instructors should tailor the requirements to meet individual needs, meaning that professors and teaching assistants (TAs) could ask students to type or email their comments. This would not only accommodate multiple forms of participation, but also reduce the anxiety that comes with on the spot responses. It would also make it easier for TAs and professors to keep track of who was and wasn’t participating.

It would be more helpful for the professors and TAs to offer these multiple channels of having discussions. With sufficient support from the university and professors, students would be less afraid to voice their opinions, leading to more insightful self-reflections and discussions. Moreover, once more students become motivated to share their opinions, increasing participation shouldn’t be a concern.

Arissa Du is a fourth-year criminology and psychology student at Victoria College.