One key factor is that masking and social distancing reduce the quality of in-person education. Both science and common sense indicate that facial expressions are an important mode of nonverbal communication. And communication is a major part of what education is all about! When I stand in front of a class of masked students, it’s often difficult for me to “read” the audience and determine how they are reacting it to what I say. Are they attentive or bored? Do they “get” it? Similarly, if the students can’t see m face, they cannot read my expression. And, as most experienced public speakers will tell you, facial expression is an important part of how we get our points across to audiences. All of that makes me a less effective teacher. And I suspect I am far from the only professor that applies to.
For both students and faculty, it is often difficult to make yourself heard in a large classroom, while wearing a mask. That is especially true of people with soft voices, including many women. Trying to “solve” this problem by passing around a microphone is cumbersome and time-consuming.
Social distancing rules also impede education. They make it impossible to fully utilize our classroom capacity (which is a serious problem for institutions with limited space). They also severely inhibit a wide range of campus extracurricular activities, many of which have great educational value in their own right. I won’t try to argue the point in detail here. But I think the experience of the last year has shown that online education, while far better than nothing, cannot even come close to fully substituting for all the in-person interactions that have been lost.Universities Should Free the Vaccinated From Covid Restrictions on Campus – Reason.com