In keeping students and staff safe from coming into contact with anyone who possibly is carrying COVID-19, SFA has instructed that the rest of the semester will be held through online classes. This means students will go to their classes using the video program Zoom in the safety of their homes and checking up on D2L regularly instead of just a few occasions throughout the semester. It’s not easy for students who haven’t taken online classes and are trying to adjust, but professors also have been trying to get into the digital mindset, as well as getting help from the Center for Teaching and Learning and Information Technology Services.
Some professors haven’t taught an online class and having to switch so quickly was a little scary. Dr. Gary Mayer, an adjunct instructor from the Mass Communication department, had not taught an online class until now and has been getting used to maneuvering classes on Zoom.
“My first thoughts [after finding out classes were moving online] were apprehension, fear, etc., because I had never taught an online class,” Mayer said. “However, I knew I would be able to find help, which is exactly what happened.”
As the days go by, Mayer understands how easy things can be the more he teaches through Zoom and is taking it one day at a time.
“I see that I can do it, and I realize this is the way it will be until the end of the semester,” Mayer said. “In other words, my apprehension is leaving me.”
While professors have been trying their best to get situated, the Center for Teaching and Learning and Information Technology Services have been making sure things are going smoothly on and off-campus.
“The Center for Teaching & Learning is devoted to pedagogy [the method and practice of teaching] and to helping faculty create positive learning experiences for students (often with technology, but not always),” Interim Director and Learning Experience Design Coordinator Megan Weatherly said. “Our biggest role in the switch has been helping faculty think through how to transition learning experiences to different modalities and how to leverage the technologies available to do that.”
One major roadblock that gets in the way for professors to have an easy and successful transition to online is not having the resources at home. Assistant Director of Classroom Support Mary Smith says she and her team are trying to help make classrooms available for professors to use for their class recordings.
“Many of these who are teaching face-to-face, most of the time, feel more comfortable coming to the classroom to deliver instruction,” Smith said.
As for the process of the transition, Smith says the only challenges that arise are ones that are minor setbacks, nothing too serious.
“It’s not that they’re unsolvable challenges,” Smith said. “It disrupts the whole workflow that many professors are used to. It takes support, both from ITS and CTL to say, ‘Hey, here’s how you do that.’”
For other teachers, things are similar to what they have had to do in the past. Professor of Piano and Coordinator of Keyboard Area of the School of Music Dr. Mario Ajero has dealt with online classes in his previous years of teaching and understands the importance to protect the health and well-being of all students, staff and faculty. However, Ajero is still facing some challenges when it comes to hearing students perform.
“The majority of the students used to record and upload their videos from our music building,” Ajero said. “The students at home oftentimes don't have the same type of bandwidth or upload and download speeds as they do at the university.”
He luckily is getting online help from his Graduate Assistant to keep up with grades and lessons in his class. Ajero also has been helping out other professors with setting up their videos to upload for students and those who aren’t used to this technology.
“One of my mentors here, Dr. Andrew Parr, he’s been teaching piano in one-on-one instruction and technology is not his strong point.” Ajero said. “I was able to get his studio set up and running; and, to the best of my knowledge, he’s been doing a wonderful job connecting with his students wherever they are.”
Even though students are having to learn to change up their routines somewhat early into the semester, their professors are also trying to get into a different routine and not one that involves seeing people in-person every day.
“Moving to online classes obviously has made things more difficult for me,” Mayer said. “But, I'm proving to myself that I can do it.”
ITS and CTL are doing everything they can to make sure professors aren’t left behind, even if there is a roadblock in front of them.
“In a time when nothing is normal, we want to keep as much normalcy as possible,” Smith said.
In all of this mania, it’s important for students to know they aren’t alone and their professors are here to help.
“The one thing I’ve tried to do in both my recorded instructions and my email and text message interactions with all the students is try to keep a positive mindset and give them kind of this reassuring attitude that everything’s gonna be okay here,” Ajero said. “That this is just a temporary roadblock that we’re gonna overcome working together.