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Suppose, hypothetically there is a group project. We can either meet in person or online. The choice is not democratic though because according to the university guidelines, everybody must agree on meeting in-person but if just one person feels too shy and intimidated by meeting real people, we must do it online. This is year 3 undergraduate. We're all in our twenties so technically, we're all adults.

This has nothing to do with COVID. If you're timid, you can hide and never leave the house. I don't know if I chose the right place to ask this but we're not allowed to discuss this subject becuase it's perceived as tantamount to harassment. Is university not the place where people should overcome such personal hindrances?

And I hate online meetings, I think the world is split in this regard but if you want to meet online just to avoid stress then what makes you think you're qualified to obtain a university degree?

And good-luck trying to produce a publishable report in these conditions.

Am I being too harsh? If you get stressed easily, you will never improve if you always run away from it.

EDIT: I didn't mention that I am slightly autistic. I have aspergers. I've been struggling all my life. But I won't let my autism hinder me. Nor should anyone. I would like to apologise to the people I offended. Noone should be forced. You should force yourselves. I forced myself and I discover new worlds. (For example I was afraid but went to university nevertheless).

Not a single person agreed with me though. I'm confused.

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    What is your goal with this question? Do you want to validate your own feelings, or try and change university policy? Is it an option to meet in person with the people that want to, and have the people that do not want to be there join digitally for the meeting?
    – Jeroen
    Oct 18 at 12:37
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    I am 95% sure that your university policy, if it really is like you say, is not about people being "shy", but due to past incidents of harassment, bullying, or assault.
    – xLeitix
    Oct 18 at 12:58
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    Is this a real policy or a hypothetical question? It's the first time I'm hearing this.
    – henning
    Oct 18 at 13:17
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    And some people want to tell others what to do, but we don't have to accommodate them.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 18 at 14:43
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    @Peter very true, employers don’t care about your issues. This isn’t the last organizational policy you’ll find yourself disagreeing with. You’ll be expected to comply (and respect the decisions of others who comply in a way you disagree with) or be fired.
    – Dan Romik
    Oct 18 at 15:06
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Making judgements about other's reasons and intentions isn't a positive trait. Trying to coerce people into changing their decisions is even worse.

While I'm a big advocate of having shy (introverted, say) people learn how to come out and act in public without denying who and what they are, external coercion isn't going to "solve" any problems for them. It is a long and difficult process as I know from personal experience.

People might have a lot of reasons for avoiding in person meetings. Extreme reluctance in the face of a pandemic is rational, actually. There can be other reasons that you don't know about. Don't assume what you don't have evidence for.

The rule that you shouldn't discuss it among yourselves is probably wise to avoid any hint of coercion.

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While I broadly agree that, for most people, introversion or shyness shouldn't be a reason to avoid all meetings, I think you're focussing on the wrong thing. The rules for your course are what they are, and from your description of the situation it doesn't sound like they're going to change.

What you should focus on instead is that here is an opportunity for you to overcome a "personal hindrance". You appear to think that it is impossible to execute a project to a high standard when meeting only online, as you write:

And good-luck trying to produce a publishable report in these conditions.

But, as the large amount of remote work done by many people in the last two years demonstrates, it is in fact possible. The fact you think this to be impossible, despite evidence to the contrary, suggests you simply don't know how to do it. So here is your opportunity to learn a very useful skill.

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Is university not the place where people should overcome such personal hindrances?

No. University is the place where you can work to obtain a degree or other higher qualification. While for many it's an opportunity (expected or not) to grow as a person, this isn't a pre-requisite for earning a degree.

And I hate online meetings, I think the world is split in this regard but if you want to meet online just to avoid stress then what makes you think you're qualified to obtain a university degree?

A person's competency in their chosen subject has nothing to do with how they choose to manage their stress. Let me use a concrete example: Alexei Starobinsky is a famous physicist who has made many contributions to the field of cosmology. However, he almost never attends conferences because he speaks with a stammer and finds giving talks and interacting with others verbally to be very stressful. This does not diminish his contributions to the field in any way.

Furthermore, someone may actually work more effectively when they have taken steps to look after their health -- for example, choosing to work from home during a pandemic -- than if they are forced to work in stressful conditions. And a situation which may be fun or relaxing for one person may be very stressful for another. It's not up to us to debate other people's personal boundaries.

Lastly, why do you think it's impossible to "produce a publishable report" while staying at home? The vast majority of researchers managed to do exactly that over the past two years.

Am I being too harsh? If you get stressed easily, you will never improve if you always run away from it.

I agree that to increase one's comfort zone one has to step outside it from time to time. But again, it's not up to us to force another person to do this. They have to come to this realisation on their own and take their own steps. For example, perhaps the person you are talking about is already working to improve, perhaps by having a friend over to their house or meeting a single person outside. Maybe in a few months they will be comfortable having a group meeting in person. Or maybe they won't be. Either way, as Buffy says, you should try to be supportive rather than coercive.

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    Actually, let me disagree a bit about one comment. University can, in fact, be a good place for an introverted person to learn to act in public effectively. There are many opportunities if you decide to take advantage of them, that won't occur later. Counseling is available to learn ways to speak out even when you don't really want to. In my undergraduate (math) program a speech course was required IIRC. Not appearing shy is a skill that even shy people can master and the university environment might be a great place to practice. But you need to recognize the need, of course.
    – Buffy
    Oct 18 at 14:49
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The purpose of any assessment or exercise is to learn knowledge and skills that are associated with the degree/module program. To the best extent possible, the assessement should base its grade on ability in those skills/items of knowledge alone. In pedogogical terms, we call this "constructive alignment".

A person with either a mental health issue or simply a personality trait that makes this difficult may get lower grades, or even fail, for reasons that are related to the nature of the assessment, rather than any lack of ability at what is supposed to be being assessed.

So, if the aim of the assessment to to assess an indeviduals ability to research things from the literature, or write reports, then to base a grade on their ability to interact face to face is clearly not properly following the precinciples of constructive alignment.

Now, if an ability to work with a face to face team is an explicit stated goal of the course, then it is fair to assess this. There are situations where this is appropriate. But more often group excercises are set for other reasons, like they encourage active rather than passive leanring, they encourage students to interact with primary sources/research, and they are much less work to grade for the professor ;). In these situations, it is not fair to grade on the basis of ability to interact.

This is no different to allowing dyspraxic people to type exam answers, blind people to use screen readers, and providing transcripts/subtitles to deaf people. What one person calls "shyness" could be a debilitating social axiety disorder (diagnosed or undiagnosed), and the idea that such people can just "get over it" is simplistic.

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  • This is definitely the right framework in which to examine this question. However, beware that, even if the individual module doesn't have an explicit learning outcome with which having a "face to face interaction" component in the grading is constructively aligned, there might still be an explicit programme-level or institution-level learning outcome with which having a "face to face interaction" component in the grading is constructively aligned. Oct 19 at 10:22
  • If face-to-face interaction is a programme-level outcome, it should also be an outcome of at least some modules. I know that when we had our accreditation, it was exactly this sort of thing the accreditation assessors were examining. Oct 19 at 13:25
  • Yes, accreditation panels in my discipline also insist that every learning outcome of the programme also appears specifically as a learning outcome of at least one module. But I don't think that's the case for every discipline, and I'm sure it's not the case for institution-level learning outcomes. Oct 19 at 13:31

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