(Header image courtesy of the Lily)
Being students during the pandemic has definitely altered many aspects of our lives. We are supposed to be able to enjoy learning in a classroom setting, see our friends, socialize and feel normal. However, our professors have also been affected by the pandemic in terms of teaching.
“It makes teaching harder. I try to maintain classes via Zoom, but the interaction is more limited,” says Dr. Lois Foreman-Wernet, professor and Chair at Capital’s Media Department. She teaches Public Relations, Media Internships, and a First-Year Seminar class, and she taught mainly in-person classes before the pandemic hit.
“It’s harder to have discussion. If students do not have their cameras on, that makes it especially difficult to know if they are following along, have questions, or need help,” Dr. Foreman-Wernet continued.
She also mentions that it can make a difference if students already know one another, and said that remote learning tends to work better when already-established relationships exist between teachers and students. These relationships can be much more difficult to develop in an online setting rather than an in-person one.
“It’s a difficult challenge. I think the university has done pretty well. I’ve been especially impressed with how CELT (Center for Learning and Teaching) has stepped up to help faculty make the switch,” Dr. Foreman-Wernet went on.
Other teachers are also having some troubles communicating with their students during the pandemic.
“It’s certainly more of a challenge to interact with the students and keep their attention when teaching remotely,” says Dr. David Reed. Dr. Reed works in the Math, Computer Science and Physics Departments.
He primarily teaches classes relating to computer science majors, and taught all of his classes in-person before the pandemic.
“Downloading assignments/exams from iLearn, grading them and returning them electronically takes much longer than grading paper assignments. All the extra setup for teaching remotely also takes more time (putting everything on iLearn, creating Zoom meetings, etc.) vs. just walking to the classroom and teaching,” Dr. Reed said.
“So, just like many students, most faculty are also a little overwhelmed and tired. And it’s certainly less enjoyable not seeing both students and my colleagues in-person. Many of those informal conversations that would happen in the hallway or during lunch don’t happen right now,” he said.
The online aspect of learning has definitely changed the way many of our professors have been teaching. Although there are some challenges presented by online learning, there have been some benefits, as well.
“Small group work via Zoom breakout rooms worked better in the introductory course than it did in past years. When students are all in the same physical room, it’s easy to be distracted by the other groups,” Dr. Reed says.
He mentions that with breakout rooms, groups can work without distractions while he can move to each group to answer questions.
Dr. Reed goes on to say that drop-in hours are more convenient for him when multiple students have questions. He can admit one student at a time to have questions individually answered while maintaining discretion amongst students.
Dr. Reed explains his process of answering questions during drop-in hours to be easier for him and more thought-provoking for his students, as well.
“I plan to continue using Zoom for at least one or two drop-in hours each week even after we are all back on campus so that I can be more flexible in the times I am available,” he said. Being more flexible for students is also something good that has come out of the online transition, since you do not have to be there in person as a teacher.
Although the pandemic has affected some of our professors negatively, there are good things that have come out of it, too. It is important to stay positive during these times, and remember: wear your masks consistently.