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Credit: Mia Kim

Some Penn professors have designated their course on Penn InTouch as "asynchronous," removing the meeting time from students' schedules and allowing for greater flexibility during the course selection period, which ends on Tuesday.

One week before the first day of class, Political Science professor Brian Rosenwald announced to his students on Canvas that his PSCI 130: Introduction to American Politics class would be completely asynchronous this semester. The move was praised by many students in the class, as it allowed them to sign up for another class offered in the same time slot, and gave students in other timezones more flexibility.

Rosenwald said when he received the roster of students in PSCI 130, he realized that students were located in time zones across the world, making it difficult for some students to attend the synchronous lecture time as was previously indicated on their schedules.

“I think that synchronous is obviously preferable, because it fosters a sense of community and lets people interact with one another, but it's not doable for the lecture portion of this class, because it's a large class,” Rosenwald added.

He said he received an email from the Political Science department a week before classes began, announcing that professors could designate their classes as completely asynchronous and remove the class meeting times from Penn InTouch. Rosenwald soon made the decision to do so, especially after receiving many emails from students asking if they could register for another class which conflicted with the PSCI 130 class time, he said.

University Registrar Margaret Kip wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that while professors have the ability to remove their class times from students' schedules, students are not able to register for classes conflicting with those that still show up on their Penn InTouch schedules, regardless of whether the class has some asynchronous components. 

Students in PSCI 130 said they appreciate the flexibility given by Rosenwald to make sure that the course is accessible to all students, including those with schedule conflicts and those living in other time zones. 

College sophomore Nicholas Williams, who is currently taking classes remotely in California, said the completely asynchronous format will now allow him to watch the lectures at his own time instead of at 7 a.m. when the class was originally scheduled.

“I was going to get up if I had to, but I was actually very glad that he changed it to asynchronous,” Williams said.

College first-year Oscar Vasquez said while he did not need to take another course in the same time slot as the class, he praised Rosenwald's decision to make the class completely asynchronous to allow other students the opportunity to do so.

Despite the loss of any live lectures or a virtual classroom setting, students feel as if the experience taking PSCI 130 has not been diminished and is confident they will learn all the necessary material. 

Wharton first-year Jun Sun said he has so far enjoyed the “podcast” style of the course.

“I think especially for this class, [the pre-recorded lectures] are convenient,” Sun said. “I drive around to a decent amount of places and I can just pop it on for like 30 minutes [while driving].”

Williams added he has found that asynchronous lectures can be engaging as long as the student watching them is interested in the subject material.

"I would say that overall I've really been enjoying the course, so I think that the asynchronous hasn't led to a sacrifice in quality," Williams said.

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