AU will be shifting all classes to an online format the week following spring break, university administration announced on March 11. While students are wondering how this switch will be possible for some of their hands-on-learning-oriented classes, professors are finding unique ways to ensure that students will still receive proper instruction.
Although she has never taught a course entirely online, Professor Deborah Miller-Fox of the English department has begun the process of restructuring her classes.
“My plans for my three courses are to use Canvas,” she said. “I use Canvas extensively in my courses already, so I’m just going to expand my use of some of the Canvas tools. For example, Canvas has ‘discussions’ which allows for students to engage with one another. Through that discussion tool, they can post comments and respond to one another’s comments.”
Miller-Fox explained that this shift to online classes could be challenging for students and faculty alike.
“We do have some students on campus who only have access to Wi-Fi if they’re in public spaces,” she said. “Even if they have a phone or laptop, maybe they live in a rural area and they don’t have a dependable Wi-Fi in their home––that could be a challenge. I think that is a small percentage of our student population, but every student matters.”
For Erich Yetter, assistant professor of dance, shifting his classes to an online-only format involves looking into how to best deliver online instruction for a dance course.
“This is not a highly developed area due to the experiential nature of performing arts courses but challenging times call for thinking out of the box,” he said. “Because dance is so physical and requires guidance and correction in real-time, using a technological format can be kind of tricky.”
Yetter explained that live webinars, online discussion boards and collegial blog sites are among the available resources they are pursuing, but that there “is no perfect solution since dance is an essentially communal activity.”
“We realize this is neither an ideal nor permanent situation, and that this period of difficulty will pass by in time,” he said. “Meanwhile, we carry on and assertively provide the best education, through whatever delivery systems feasible, for our students that we possibly can.”
For individuals who may view the switch to online classes as on overreaction, Miller-Fox offered some advice.
“It might be helpful to think of the analogy of peanut allergy,” she said. “If I have someone in my home that has a severe peanut allergy, I’m going to do everything within the context of my home to protect them from exposure to peanuts, because I don’t want them to become ill. Even though I can have peanuts, I’m going to do everything I can to reduce their risk. It’s not a perfect analogy, but that’s what we’re doing as a campus community––we’re trying to protect those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus infection by accepting an inconvenience for ourselves.”