July 16, 2020
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Professors voice opinions on virtual learning

By Kim Sandve
Correspondent

When sociology professor at the College Diane Bates reflected on her experience teaching an online class at another institution prior to quarantine, she recalled finding many red flags in the process.

“Only one person can speak at a time and the tempo of discussions is stilted by this, as well as ongoing technical issues like lagging and forgetting to unmute and the like,” she said. “It’s clunky and awkward.”

With classes ranging from discussion-based to technologically hands-on, professors at the College are eager to return to an in-person classroom setting. 

Susan Ryan, a communications professor at the College, has experienced similar problems with her discussion-based classes.

“None of the students has [sic] complained to me directly, but I have a feeling that many are not happy with this form of instruction,” Ryan said. 

Apart from altering the structure of classes and fluid communication between professors and students, accessibility issues rise to the surface. 

“Some students have ample time, space and bandwidth,” Bates said. “Others are struggling with technology, with noise, with work, with illness, with anxiety, with siblings.”

Professors find difficulty in moving their lessons online in the wake of COVID-19 (Flickr).

In general, her students are respectful and Bates is impressed. In fact, she said she is most critical of her own performance during this time.

On the contrary, Catie Rosemurgy of the creative writing department has noticed an increased level of participation during the online portion of the semester.

“I’ve learned a lot so far about some advantages to online learning and discussion,” Rosemurgy said. “When people are sharing thoughtful, written answers to questions, you get to hear from everyone, which you don’t always in the classroom, and everyone can see when someone really takes their time and knocks an answer out of the park. It’s exhilarating and it raises the bar of the discussion.”

But for Zoom, the application used by many professors to hold their online classes, cybersecurity has been brought into question with the various instances of sessions being interrupted by unwanted visitors.

My kids and dog make pretty regular guest appearances,” Bates said. “But one of my colleagues had a very bad ‘zoom bomb’ incident, where an unknown person got into the class and voiced some pretty reprehensible things. In fact, it was that situation that led to TCNJ offering additional protections and guidance for classes being held on Zoom.”

Despite having to dramatically alter the way they teach, many professors remark feeling grateful for the structure online classes can have.

“The quarantine has made it dramatically clear how much teaching brings to my life,” Rosemurgy said. “The shared project of learning is truly sacred, and TCNJ students bring boundless positivity, forward-momentum and creative energy to it.”

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