Professors teaching classes with labs this semester had to plan their Spring Semester schedules around the wellness days implemented by Ohio University.
Instead of Spring Break, Ohio University implemented wellness days, which are various days off throughout the semester to give students a break from classes. However, many labs are split into groups that each come into the lab on a certain day, so a wellness day can throw off the entire weekly schedule.
“Typically when we are running lab meetings 4 days a week in person, any day off Monday through Friday means that we cancel lab for that week,” Mark Lucas, professor of physics and astronomy, said in an email. “As it is, the first two wellness days mean that we cancel our online lab meetings, currently held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but we make sure the TAs are still available to help students.”
Due to the restructuring and cancelation of labs, some professors had to cut some of the material they would typically teach during the semester or have simplified online lab exercises.
“My lab classes had to be shortened by one full week because of three wellness days,” Klaus Himmeldirk, a chemistry professor, said in an email. “Adjusting to this is possible by cutting one week of lab work out of my standard schedule. It will mean that there will be less material covered during the term.”
Even though some of the material was cut out, Himmeldirk is grateful that he can offer his classes in-person this semester rather than having to continue to teach his lab classes online.
Both Himmeldirk and Lucas were not contacted by the university for their input on when wellness day should be. However, they did have access to the dates of the wellness from the university while they were making their spring syllabi.
“The wellness days were chosen in consultation with the Academic Policy and Process group, Assistant Deans Council, and Faculty Senate,” Carly Leatherwood, university spokesperson, said in an email. “Faculty members had access to the wellness day dates when building their spring syllabi.”
Wellness days were also implemented as a substitution to Spring Break to reduce faculty and student travel. For that same reason, they were not put on Mondays or Fridays to avoid giving students long weekends.
Even though some professors who teach labs think wellness days will be beneficial to students, they recognize there are challenges and drawbacks of having a shortened semester and having to cut down some of their course material.
“I know that my students are often tired (or) less receptive towards the end of a regular semester,” Himmeldirk said in an email. “Therefore, I think that wellness days may help with keeping students mentally fresh. I do not like that this means that the semester was effectively shortened. Our students will have a reduced learning experience.”