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BREAKING: Idaho Activates Statewide Crisis Standards Of Care

Boise State Student Asks, “Are In-Person Classes Worth The Risk?”

The homepage of the Arbiter website shown on the screen of a laptop.
Mackenzie Hudson
The Arbiter
The Arbiter published "Are In-Person Classes Worth The Risk?" on April 15, 2021.

As Boise State students returned to campus after spring break and moved into the homestretch of a challenging 2020-2021 school year, a provocative editorial in the university newspaper The Arbiter asked, “Are In-Person Classes Worth the Risk?” In short order, it triggered plenty of on-campus conversation.

“This semester, more than ever, I have found myself questioning whether or not online classes are worth the time and effort,” wrote the editorial’s author, sophomore Amanda Niess. “However, as the semester progresses, I now find myself asking the same about in-person classes.”

Niess visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about how the long, wide shadow of the pandemic altered her opinion of how best to spend her time during the school year.

“One day was definitely the turning point of when I realized that it would benefit me more individually to go to work for those three extra hours.”
Amanda Niess

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Are in-person classes worth the risk? That's more than just a hypothetical question. It's the title of a must-read opinion column in The Arbiter, the student newspaper on the campus of Boise State, Amanda Niess is here. She is the author of “Are In-person Classes Worth the Risk?” Amanda, good morning.

AMANDA NIESS: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Up front, first of all, tell me about you. You are… what? A sophomore?

NIESS: I am a sophomore…a Media Arts and Journalism major at Boise State.

PRENTICE: I want to read something here. It's part of your column that you wrote: “At the beginning of the spring semester, I had three face-to-face classes planned for the remainder of the school year. After a few weeks of attending in-person classes, I discovered that the advantages of online classes immensely outweighed the advantages of being in-person.” Amanda, what happened?

Amanda Niess
Amanda Niess
Amanda Niess is a sophomore at Boise State University - a Media Arts/Journalism major

NIESS: Like I said, I had three face-to-face classes and I realized, one day, IT was actually a Monday, and I was on my way to go to back home from work and it was at 1:00 p.m. and I realized that the class that I was going to attend… I could probably predict everything that my teacher was about to tell me. And I thought, “What would it be like if I had stayed at work and stayed the three extra hours or four extra hours and made a couple more bucks instead of staying at home and learning something that was pretty redundant?”

PRENTICE: Can I assume then that you were calculating this work/study balance?

NIESS: Pretty much. And I understand that we pay for classes and courses individually, and that immensely outweighs what I'd be earning at my job. But yeah, that one day was definitely the turning point of when I realized that it would benefit me more individually to go to work for those three extra hours, as opposed to going back home and attending that same class.

PRENTICE: Is it possible for you to be a full-time student and work as much as you want?

NIESS: I don't know if it's possible for me to be a completely full-time student and a complete full-time employee. That's why I'm working part-time and working weekends. However, with these online classes, it does allow me to be a full-time employee, but that has a lot of a lot of challenges along the way.

PRENTICE: In a perfect world, would it be a blend?

NIESS: I believe so. I believe that a good mix of being in-person, talking face to face with everyone, as well as getting a little bit of computer time to expand on those skills as well. I think that would be… that would be really great.

PRENTICE: Can I assume that you've had conversations with your folks about this? I'm curious about what they think.

NIESS: Oh, most definitely. I've talked to my mom about this multiple times, and she thinks the same thing. Education is number one in her mind, graduating from USC. She has a lot a lot of things to say about education and as a teacher, right now. So, she is all for it. And she understands where I'm coming from, from a monetary position of wanting to work a little bit more. But at the same time, she wants me to enjoy what I have left of my college experience, and wants to have me make the most out of it.

PRENTICE: How much does any of this weigh into mental wellness - your own and your peers?

NIESS: I've written a couple of things myself about mental wellness, and trying to maintain that - especially through a semester where we've become completely online. Just getting outside is enough for me, and I hope that's enough for my peers, whether it be going to Bogus or going to hike Camel’s Back [park], or even just a slight walk around the Boise River on the Greenbelt. I mean, I always push my peers and my friends and my roommates to get out as much as they can, even if it's if it includes going outside and doing your class outside in the backyard, just anything to get outside and not spend as much time on the computer screen.

PRENTICE: She is Amanda Niess. Amanda, thanks for giving us some time and have a good morning.

NIESS: Of course. Thank you so much.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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