October 20, 2020
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A new way of teaching: professors share their thoughts on remote instruction

By Nancy Bowne
Staff Writer

After a summer of extensive planning for a remote semester, the College’s faculty are adjusting to the reality of teaching classes from their homes. With new technology and changes to classroom management, professors have realized that this semester is anything but typical.

“I’ve never had a meeting in the summer,” said Joseph Goebel, the chair of the world languages and cultures department at the College. “There have been several Zoom meetings and committees. I’ve been here 23 years and I was impressed and extraordinarily happy about the efforts put forth by all people to make the best of these circumstances.” 

Goebel said how faculty have been supportive of each other by exchanging tips, like dual screens and managing breakout rooms, throughout the department.

The freshmen convocation crashed due to Zoom over-usage across the country during the first week of classes, but professors were eventually able to problem-solve and connect through phones.

Professors are adapting to a new way of teaching (Flickr).

“Nothing ever goes completely smooth, even in a live classroom,” Goebel said. “But we’re actually doing it, and we’re succeeding. And that’s the benchmark for me: figuring out the glitches, getting better and serving the students.”

When it comes to office hours, Goebel describes them as being more accessible than ever before. Students can reach him at any time they want, and he’s gotten better acquainted with the first-year students faster than the past three years.

“I can set up a Zoom at any time. I have students who can just jump in,” Goebel said. “I have been on Zoom meetings with them (freshmen students) since May. By the time we got to our meeting in convocation, many of the faculty knew everybody.”

As the interim dean of engineering, Steve O’Brien has been ensuring safety measures are followed and is continuing to look for long-term improvements throughout his department.

“There’s a lot of positive feedback and excitement from the freshmen that are doing their intro courses and their general math and science courses,” he said.

On the other hand, O’Brien said that some students are planning to defer for financial reasons or the fact that remote teaching isn’t manageable for them. “They really can’t get into it,” he said.

Engineering students are facing physical limitations by not being physically present in a classroom. It helps to understand mathematics and science better when students are able to work with 2D and 3D objects.

As the chair of the elementary and early childhood education department at the College, James Beyers has navigated two sections of math education classes, and has become more comfortable with remote teaching. He is discovering what does and doesn’t work for his students.

“I’m releasing assignments out gradually throughout the semester, not all at once,” Beyers said. “And it’s five to ten minute videos, instead of 60 minutes, to keep their attention.” 

A few faculty members from the School of Education are hosting workshops for parents in the Ewing community, called Successful Strategies for Leading Learning Pods, in order to better help their children. The workshops consist of content about chunking learning, managing students at different levels and asking questions, according to Beyers.

“The responsibility is falling on more hands than just teachers,” said Beyers. “We don’t want to leave the community hanging high and dry without some form of preparation.” 

Meanwhile, the nursing department is working on enhancing the clinical and lab experiences for students, who are getting more experience through telehealth and virtual simulations.

“Lab has been more difficult, because we don’t want students to just practice the skills, but to master them,” said Sharon Byrne, the chair of the nursing department.

While many professors say that it’s still too soon in the semester to fully witness how remote learning will progress, they’re secure that this is the best case scenario in the current circumstances and that students can still experience a valid and well-formed education.

“We all want to be back on campus,” Goebel said. “And when it’s safe, you’re not going to find many teachers saying they want to be remote. They want to be in the classroom just as much as the students want to be in the classroom.”

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