Faculty reflect on Spring 2021 virtual options

Illustration by Maya Winshell

Hybrid and online instruction, a necessary aspect of attending school during the coronavirus pandemic, has garnered a variety of reactions and experiences from faculty members. 

As Lewis & Clark was preparing for the Fall 2020 semester, the need for a hybrid style of instruction became apparent. Given that not everyone would be able to return to campus or feel safe doing so, fully-remote options were made available to both students and faculty members who needed to work or study from home.

Students were required to submit a form requesting to access all courses remotely and agreeing to not come to campus at all during the semester. Faculty had to report how they planned to build community and mirror aspects of in-person education in online classes. Around one-third of classes this semester are being taught fully remote.

“We recognized early in the summer that many faculty with underlying health conditions would need to teach remotely to stay safe,” Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Suttmeier said via email. “We also saw that some students, similarly, would need remote options to feel safe. But we also felt strongly that we could, through masking, social distancing, etc., conduct in-person classes, and we wanted to offer that option to students and faculty who wished to be on campus.”

During the summer of 2020, the Adaptive Teaching for the Liberal Arts (ATLA) committee was formed in order to figure out what classes would look like during a pandemic. This involved developing the hybrid form of teaching that is currently being used. For example, ATLA tested where computers and cameras should be placed in classrooms in order for online students to best be able to see the professor and class.

“We did a series of workshops over the summer kind of modeling different things,” said Maryann Bylander, associate professor of sociology. “Part of it was to just give faculty a sense of what these environments might be like, so it included us actually giving hybrid lectures.”

About her own hybrid classes, Bylander described both pros and cons. Hybrid classes pose unique challenges, especially since they are so new, including setting up activities correctly so that all students can access them and fostering discussions with some students in the room and others online. 

For online classes, Bylander said that there are “real wins to being able to engage in other kinds of ways.”

“On the days where I do fully-remote teaching, there are really interesting ways of getting participation from students you wouldn’t otherwise hear from,” Bylander said. “Sometimes the students who are a little bit more shy, less likely to participate in an in-person class, are really vocal in the chat.”

Associate Professor of Economics Eric Tymoigne, along with the rest of the economics department, is teaching all of his courses remotely this year. He chose this option because it allowed him to have a more flexible schedule in order to stay home and take care of his children. About teaching remotely, he said, “you have to get into the rhythm of it.”

“For me, it has gone very well,” Tymoigne said. “I was able to recreate a good part of the things going on in the classroom, buying a whiteboard, basically setting up a room as a video conference room.”

Although he is looking forward to teaching in person again next school year, he has enjoyed his remote classes and is comfortable with the teaching style. 

Despite being our current sense of “normal,” hybrid and online classes are an experience unique to this school year, as classes will return to the fully in-person, pre-pandemic style in Fall 2021.

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