Are snow days a thing of the past?

Skyler Jensen, Editor-in-Chief

On Feb. 2, Park University had a snow day, but it wasn’t a traditional snow day.

Now, instead of giving students a day off of classes, Park encouraged instructors to have virtual classes, which received mixed reactions from the Park community.

Chelsie Shepard, junior communication studies major, was not happy about the change.

“I miss the whole snow days just being a snow day experience,” she said.

Instead, she wishes that Park had a certain amount of traditional snow days before turning to virtual school. She struggles to pay attention to Zoom classes and wishes that the school would have just given students the day off instead.

However, not everyone shares that opinion. Simon Hamler, freshman English student, said that he is glad about the change.

“You’re getting the class time that you paid for in a different way that might not work as well, but you still get a learning experience,” he said.

He agrees that Zoom is not the best learning experience, especially compared to normal classes, but it’s better than no classes at all.

Ahmed Zlitni, junior information and computer science major, agrees with Hamler’s opinion. He feels safer with the school opting to switch to having virtual days instead of traditional snow days. He said that because he is a commuter student, he struggles to get to class when there is snow. He continued, “having things on Zoom makes it feel way safer for me.”

He said that he is glad that the school is taking advantage of the virtual day option because otherwise he wouldn’t risk it to go to class.

Patricia Ryberg, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and Park honors academy director, said she can see both positives and negatives to having virtual days in place of traditional snow days. She said that the negatives are especially seen in hands-on classes like labs or studio classes. She continued that the same is true for art students because the professors can’t have them paint a subject if they do not have paint or a subject in front of them.

Ryberg also found benefits in the situation. She said one benefit is that classes won’t fall behind like classes have in years past.

“We can ensure that everyone gets the needed information that they are supposed to have for the whole semester,” she said.

Another benefit she brought up is students are safer with virtual days being an option, which is similar to Zlitni’s point.

“We (Park University) don’t want our students out on the roads if it’s going to be bad weather and bad traffic,” she said.

Virtual snow days also raise concerns about overreliance on technology.

“Everyone learns differently,” said Ryberg. “The majority of students, they need interactions to really help them learn,” she continued.

Shepard is one of those students who prefers interaction.

“People were just way too comfortable just hopping on a Zoom call and calling it a class. You’re staring at a computer screen; you’re not getting that interpersonal communication interaction,” she said.

Ryberg said that for the students who thrive in different classroom settings, Park University offers many different types of classes. Students can take classes that allow them to go at their own pace, or classes that utilize Zoom classes and an online portion.

However, this change in class types can change the college experience for students.

Students’ experience has already changed since COVID-19 began, and classes shifted to an online structure. Now that’s extending to Park’s snow days.

“A lot of students sort of felt lost, they still feel lost because there’s no sense of community that you get with the face-to-face classes,” Ryberg said.

Park University is known for a sense of community, so losing that connection has been hard for many students which is why so many students were excited to return to face-to-face classes at the beginning of this academic year.

In all, virtual days are still new.

“We’re still trying to figure out how best to figure out what is a virtual day,” Ryberg said. She said not everyone has the same access to technology or internet.

In the future, if Park has more virtual snow days, the hope is instructors can find a way to keep everyone engaged and create a sense of community for their students.