After the coronavirus pandemic brought the spring 2020 semester not to a halt but, rather, to unprecedented territory, the internet at Penn State transformed from an assistant to learning into the main tool utilized in academia.
Vaccines are widely available in the United States. The rate of Pennsylvania adults who are fully vaccinated continually increases. And, the frequency of remote learning options is rapidly decreasing. Penn State is aiming to hold 96% of classes in person this fall — quite the adjustment from a majority of virtual or hybrid classes for the past school year.
Many may rejoice at the thought of a return to “normal” this fall: no more lazily logging into Zoom classes just to open other distracting tabs. Concerts are returning to light up the Bryce Jordan Center, and Beaver Stadium will once again host a much fuller fan base during each home game.
Yet, some people simply may not feel comfortable returning to “normal” in a few short months — especially with coronavirus variants appearing and spreading in the U.S. After the more exciting announcements of concerts at the BJC and other live events, Penn State University Libraries announced the end of its virtual services Tuesday. During the pandemic, the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service provided digital access to library resources. It will be no more on July 10.
Something that was an “emergency temporary access service” wasn’t meant to last forever, but continuing some form of virtual library access even after the pandemic would benefit not only those with lingering coronavirus hesitancy but also the Penn State community as a whole.
Education is the key to societal improvement: While the world may not be counting on Penn State in lowly State College to solve all of society’s problems, making education more accessible is surely a start to improve our little central Pennsylvania town.
Dedicating resources to continue funding and creating virtual education would work to create a more vibrant, knowledgeable and equitable community. Virtual classes, books, seminars, events and more would expand the university’s educational opportunities past the young, able-bodied majority compromising Penn State’s University Park campus.
Online classes are still available — in small numbers — at University Park, and World Campus offers solely virtual courses. But, the resources and opportunities available at University Park should extend beyond its campus. Virtual learning opportunities would help decrease some inequalities among the commonwealth.
Moreover, virtual resources went further than learning amid the pandemic — Penn State’s Counseling and Psychological Services offered virtual mental health resources. Making mental health services more accessible — through an online format — also continues to benefit the community’s wellbeing.
Online education and other resources aren’t perfect, but they’ve primarily worked. And, continuing these remote options will only allow improvement. Improvement will lead to more innovation. Improvement will lead to more accessibility.
The world is inevitably moving into a more online format, and the coronavirus abruptly moved the world even more online. There are definite drawbacks to the online format, but the people it would help would slowly but impactfully improve the community.
Daily Collegian Managing Editor Becky Marcinko can be reached at email@example.com.