For professors used to teaching in lecture halls and classrooms, Ohio State’s move to virtual classes for the remainder of the semester can be a big adjustment.
University President Michael V. Drake announced that all classes would move online starting March 23 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With that move came new platforms and programs unfamiliar to some professors.
Emily Davidson, a senior lecturer in the School of Communication, said she is comfortable using Zoom for prerecording lectures and office hours but had never used it interactively with students in its live setting. In an effort to make sure her students feel successful and prepared for the remainder of the semester, Davidson said she had to alter her teaching style by recording her lectures and replacing in-person activities with discussion boards.
“The biggest adjustment for me as a teacher is not being able to see my students and interact with them, which is heartbreaking. That’s one of the best parts of the job,” Davidson said.
Thomas Barrett, a professor of physics, is taking a different approach. He said he prerecords his lectures because of the large number of students in his classes and the amount of information he presents, and he uses the usual class times for Zoom office hours so students can ask questions about the material in the prerecorded lectures.
“They have the advantage that they can scroll back a couple of minutes and listen to something again. You have the disadvantage that you can’t raise your hand and ask a question right in the middle of lecture,” Barrett said.
Kristy Boyce, a professor in the psychology department, said she understands the need students might have for a more flexible schedule, and her expectations have become more lenient.
“I can’t necessarily expect the same things that I would with a regular in-person class,” Boyce said.
With the first week of online classes under her belt, Boyce said she feels like her transition went rather smoothly.
“Probably the more stressful time as an instructor was before we started, back when we were still kind of getting news and learning what this is all going to be like,” Boyce said.
Davidson also pointed to flexibility with deadlines as something students need.
“I don’t know what my students’ home life situation is like, so some of them are going to have much more flexible schedules than others,” Davidson said.
Davidson said it’s important for students to see professors’ faces in their lectures online because it provides a sense of normalcy amid the changes.
However, Barrett said normalcy is hard to achieve when it comes to teaching his labs. He said that by losing the ability to work in small groups, he believes students will not get enough out of the labs.
For lab work, Barrett said he has been providing students with all the data needed to answer questions, and he said he was able to go into the labs to take video of how some equipment is used.
He said he is unsure how the students will learn while also getting the credit they deserve.
“The purpose of lab is to learn, not to be tested,” Barrett said.