This year at Wellesley, physical education classes look different. Like many other departments, the athletics department has decided to hold the majority of their PE classes through Zoom in order to limit contact among students and prevent the spread of COVID-19. These classes meet twice a week for an hour and registration for each class is capped at 15 participants to try to create a sense of community. The only requirements of the students is that their camera function is enabled (so that the instructor can view them during the class) and that they have a six by six space to use for the workout.
Students were not too skeptical about having to complete a portion of their physical education requirement through Zoom. For Phoebe Weisiger-Vallas ʼ24, online fitness courses were not a new concept. “I didn’t really mind,” said Weisiger-Vallas, “I thought that it was something that would transfer well online, and I had already been doing virtual yoga classes so I didn’t think it would be difficult.”
“I wanted to do an in-person class but those filled up really fast, and I wanted to get my PE requirement out of the way so I just settled with the core class,” said Emily Sher ʼ24, who is currently studying on campus.
One of the largest issues with online fitness instruction is the absence of the social interaction that would usually happen in a class. Whether that is talking with classmates while exercising or doing activities that involve partners, online PE classes do not let students interact with each other in the usual ways. Another issue virtual PE classes must navigate is many students lack equipment and a proper space to take the class. Dorms are not spacious enough to take classes in, so some students have tried to do the classes outside which is great for now but will not be as feasible as the year goes on.
Even though online classes cannot replace the experience of attending an in-person fitness class, students have been able to find positives in the current situation. “I like it because you don’t have to worry about other people in the class judging you for your athletic ability,” says Sher, who has been completing her classes alongside her friends who have their classes at similar times.
Virtual students like Ella Xiao ʼ24 and Weisiger-Vallas appreciate that they can still participate in classes similar to students on campus.
“Because I am doing remote [learning] I was not surprised that I had to take PE online, and I could have waited until I was on campus to take the class. Online learning has been really hard and I really needed a time to have a break, so I didn’t really care much about the format,” explained Xiao. Weisiger-Vallas had a similar sentiment, saying that, “It’s really nice that they were able to incorporate a way to stay active and get some exercise into a virtual space that works really well. I really like it because the class I picked is in the morning and it’s nice to start my day with that,”
They may not be ideal, but online PE classes have proven themselves to be a viable option and have provided students with a way to not only complete graduation requirements, but also relieve stress as they navigate their way through the new term system.