The Spring 2021 semester has continued with many restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic implemented in the Fall 2020 semester. As classes continue in both a remote or hybrid learning modality, this board is concerned with the lack of 10-minute breaks in some classes.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many classes were 80 minutes long. However, since the University’s shift to remote learning last spring, students have witnessed a 10-minute extension to these previously 80-minute classes. In an email sent to the Brandeis community, former Provost Lisa Lynch explained that extended class time is meant for students to take breaks during remote classes, and for those taking hybrid classes, to comply with COVID-19 safety measures by having professors check campus passports and distribute sanitization materials. However, several members of this board have observed professors who not only neglect to give 10-minute breaks but also do not check campus passports or distribute sanitization materials during class time. This board urges professors to continue to comply with University COVID-19 safety measures during the allotted 10-minute break. 

In addition to not complying with COVID-19 safety measures, some professors have disincentivized students from using their 10-minute break time. A member of this board has explained that one of her professors gave the class an ultimatum: either no 10-minute break, or a break that would cause students to miss vital material. This board would like to remind professors that classes, as previously noted, never used to be 90 minutes. Therefore, professors should not need an extra 10 minutes to teach course material. For instructors who are unsure of how to work breaks into their lesson plans, the University has provided guidelines on their website

This board has also recently learned about the use of overly-biased surveys by professors for feedback from students. While this board commends the use of surveys for gathering feedback from students, we also urge professors to offer a variety of answers when creating these surveys. Surveys with limited options help neither the professor nor their students to enhance the remote or hybrid learning experience. 

Additionally, this board would like to remind professors that 10-minute breaks are not only for complying with COVID-19 safety measures but also vital for combating Zoom fatigue. This has mutual benefits for both professors and students. Whether one is taking or teaching an online class, both can easily lead to fatigue. As a result, professors should not see these breaks as optional or a waste of time, but instead as a time for both COVID-19 safety compliance and a much needed break from excessive screen usage.