Teaching Students in the Era of COVID-19: We Are in This Together
November 19–20, 2020
During the unprecedented crisis of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, professors continued to be committed to giving excellent education albeit remotely. COVID-19 changed how education is done. Face-to-face classrooms were thrust into online environments without sufficient notice or preparation. Moving to remote teaching and on-line instruction can be challenging for students as well as their teachers. Professors with limited experience with online teaching are often left to devise new ways to deliver best-practice-based education in an online platform, a challenge that presents a steep learning curve for senior professors who have limited knowledge of online teaching. However, necessity is often the best teacher. Offered here are examples of how two senior professors had to re-think, re-adjust and step up their game for innovative remote teaching as a nation sheltered in place.
Monumental Changes in Record Time
Steps taken to move from face-to-face learning to online delivery in the middle of the semester required quick action. The changes were monumental and robust. Because of the commitment by senior faculty members to complete the semester delivering quality education, both attitudinal and behavioral shifts were needed, as well as the swift acquisition of skills for using the learning management system, Canvas, and the cloud-based video conferencing platform Zoom in record time. One of the authors, a senior faculty member who had seen the change from paper and pencil, to overhead projection, to internet use and now online teaching, tried to send a positive message for change to other senior professors who reluctantly moved from face-to-face to online within weeks. During the FRN session, this professor shared both the successes and difficulties she experienced as well as the online courses and webinars she took in order to sharpen her skills.
Challenges of Teaching Media Production Classes Remotely
Media courses in the fields of communication and journalism typically require in-person contact. However, in the COVID-19 environment, teaching methods and student assessments had to be modified. One challenge was the re-design of assignments for online delivery. In some skill-based media production classes, such as screenwriting and introduction to film and TV, assignments build on each other. In these courses, assignment review plays a vital role in student learning and the entire class setting acts as a community to reinforce learning. Many assignments are formative in nature and designed to improve student learning by providing ongoing, immediate, and specific feedback. That feedback given in an in-person class to a few students often benefits the entire class. This challenge had to be overcome. Like many of her colleagues, the other author of this paper considered deleting some of these formative assignments as they became unwieldy in their design to provide timely individual feedback in an online format. Additionally, in the online learning environment, the process of providing written individual feedback can become very time consuming and result in the loss of group feedback. This kind of feedback is important during group exercises because it provides opportunities for students to learn from each other, according to the model of each one to teach one. During the FRN session, this professor shared both the successes and difficulties she experienced in acquiring and using new skills for online course design.
In conclusion, creating effective learning environments to respond to an unexpected crisis has opened up the classroom for innovative pedagogy for educators as well as students. As we accept the challenge of transitioning our classes in this COVID-19 world, we have had a great opportunity to re-think, re-adjust, and rebuild our teaching to have a positive impact on our students.