Professors discuss adjusting to COVID-19

Chanelle Hanberry, Staff Writer

A variety of FMU professors met over Zoom for a humanities and social sciences symposium to discuss how they adjusted to COVID-19 in the classroom.

Professors were comparing their experiences from last semester, when they were completely virtual, to the current semester, and discussed how some classes are in-person while others are either hybrid or completely virtual. During the previous semester, Jodi Zeis, assistant professor of education, interviewed her students to determine how they felt about classes being online. According to her survey, students missed the connection they had when they were in the classroom.

Catherine England, assistant composition coordinator, said she believed that the tradition of feedback was disrupted whenever they were fully virtual. In the classroom, students were able to communicate with the professor freely whenever they needed. England saw, when classes were only virtual, that students felt uncomfortable whenever they received virtual feedback. She would call this synchronous feedback. This semester she created a more fully integrated communication system with her classroom. Rather than the students only receiving feedback from email, she also communicates through other applications such as Blackboard.

Last semester, Lindsey Banister, assistant professor of English, interviewed freshman students who attended her university life class and asked them how they felt at college as freshman. Many said they didn’t know anyone and felt a huge level of isolation. Freshman said would walk to class, walk to the dining hall and then they would walk back to their room.

Banister believed if she were to help build a social connection with students, they wouldn’t feel so isolated. In her classes this semester, Banister allows students five minutes to chat about anything not involving the class.

Erica Edwards, assistant professor of history, said she believes that although COVID-19 has affected teaching, they found some of the changes to be more beneficial for their classes. Before COVID-19, Edwards would tell her students she had food in her office to get her students to come by during her office hours. Some would arrive for the food, but others who actually needed the help were unable to arrive because her office hours would not work well with their class schedule. Now, since she is available through Zoom during her office hours, students have no problem attending. If needed, they could email her to have a Zoom meeting at a different time or another day in general. “Student hours” is what Edwards would call her office hours. She has office hours to benefit students, and consequently, other professors said they will be changing their office hours’ title to “student hours.”

As classes this semester are a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual, class attendance has changed compared to pre-COVID-19. Some professors believe that attendance is a vital part of passing the class while others believe that attendance isn’t as important.

Edwards said she doesn’t have an attendance policy because she prefers not to invade students’ personal lives. However, Banister made participation a larger part of her grade because she wants them to interact and have a social connection with each other.