A campus-wide email announcing all Spring 2020 classes will move online has raised questions of how faculty members can transform hands-on classes in under three weeks.
The Theatre and Dance Department has stopped all future productions, including their Spring Dance Concert from May 20-22.
“My initial reaction was I was very sad for our students,” Dance Department Head Diana Stanton said. “We have student directors who wanted to take on their roles [in the production] for four years. It’s such an important part of their lives.”
Stanton said she does not know if there is a replacement for learning dance without physical contact, but that the department still hopes to develop an online community.
“In our classes, our community and relational work is so important to our education,” Stanton said. “We are the art; our bodies are the art. The ability to physically practice together, the nuances of people’s energy – you can’t do that on a computer.”
Some courses such as Dance Appreciation already have online versions because they are taught in the summer. Students watch video lectures and upload their own dancing videos based on assigned criteria.
Chemistry and biochemistry assistant professor Scott Eagon is grappling with how to teach organic chemistry online. In the physical sciences, Eagon said engaging with students on an intellectual level is “fundamentally lost” in an online lecture.
“Most of us [faculty members] know we can’t just put a bunch of slides online and walk away,” Eagon said. “A lot of us are going to have to learn. It’s all an experiment.”
Eagon said he and other faculty members are deciding between recording lectures to post online and holding in-person office hours, or holding entirely virtual classes.
Eagon also said he was planning to teach the whole quarter online even before the announcement.
“As much as students like things to be all laid out for them, we’re all struggling with new things and they have to be patient with their professors,” Eagon said. “We are trying to do the best we can. Your professors are human – they are going to make mistakes, too.”
Construction Management Department Head Jeong Woo has family and friends who live in South Korea, where the government has implemented localized school closures for students of all ages. Although he expected the United States to also take action in preventing the COVID-19 spread, he said the shift to online courses still came as a surprise.
In his department, Woo said many classes consist of 100 percent hands-on activity with no lecture mode. Students attend a lab class, build something or test construction materials with “no way” to teach the class online, he said.
“Most of us [faculty members] thought two weeks is the maximum amount of time we can go virtual without sacrificing hands-on labs,” Woo said. “We have to be creative in how to deliver the courses and make students have the same progress without sacrificing learning.”
After meeting with several students to hear how they would best benefit from virtual classes, Woo said faculty members are working to keep clear communication with students while developing high-quality online courses.
“It is important to say nice words, take care of each other and be supportive for everybody,” Woo said. “All the faculty and students are doing a great job helping each other.”