COVID-19 is affecting students at AU like nothing before it. Classes were moved online and, eventually, the school’s remaining semester was slotted to continue remotely. Although the lives of college students have been jumbled, it’s not a challenge that they are facing alone; teachers across the globe are also doing their best to work through these challenging times.
“So far, I’ve struggled a little bit with creating online videos,” said Professor Cara Miller of the English department. “I understand the technical part of it, but I keep starting over when I mess up, so it takes twice as long as it should. I’m also struggling to find a good balance between having enough content so that students are still learning and fulfilling the basic requirements of the class without feeling overwhelmed or unnecessarily stressed.”
Spanish Professor Carrie Clay expressed similar concerns.
“It takes more time than I think it will,” said Clay. “Things I would have simply made a point to say in class have to be added in writing; places where we might have ‘negotiated for meaning’ while encountering new material have to be more intentionally, and perhaps less creatively, structured. With teaching a foreign language in particular, I have to figure out how to encourage the development of interpersonal speaking skills without the ease and simplicity of regular face-to-face communication.”
Professors have been challenged just as much as students to create and navigate this new digital learning landscape. Most professors are taking the switch week-to-week while they find ways to compensate for the loss of a physical classroom for their students.
It’s a change that may take time to settle into and fully adjust around. That is certainly the case for English Professor Jason Parks and Computer Science Professor Jennifer Coy.
“I don’t like it at all,” said Parks. “I prefer teaching and engaging with students in person, which is why I love teaching at AU. I am not an online teacher. Nevertheless, I’ll try my best to engage in whatever ways they feel comfortable given the current situation. I am ready to adapt as needed,”
“Teaching online is not my preferred mode of instruction,” said Coy. “I am enjoying the additional time with my husband and children; however, balancing the roles of ‘professor,’ ‘mom,’ ‘school teacher’ and ‘wife’ is definitely more challenging. We are trying to be flexible and adapt to our new situations and needs. I am also hopeful that I will be able to maintain a close relationship with my students in this remote world,”
Public Relations Professor Stefanie Leiter has a more direct view of this situation.
“I really love my students and the interaction in the classroom. I am an extrovert, so that piece is hard. But I also earned my masters from Purdue 100% online and I am pursuing my Ph.D. 100% online from Regent University,” said Leiter. “I think online learning is still challenging and rewarding.”
Professors also poured out sympathy for their students.
“Keep encouraging one another,” said Professor Todd Faulkner. “Students have been so positive on email as we’ve approached this new challenge. They’ve shown appreciation for the work put into transitioning classes and are jumping into their own work with the same focused determination to finish the semester creatively, collaboratively and strong.”
“I want students to know that their instructors care about them and their success in class,” said Miller. “Our main goal is to help students be successful, and so they shouldn’t hesitate to send an email if they are struggling with something. Especially with all of the chaos that is continually unfolding, instructors will be flexible and generous. Don’t be discouraged if you run into a few snags along the way. Communicate with your instructors, be persistent, try to finish strong and be generous with yourself.”
“Take one day at a time,” said Leiter. “ It is easy to get overwhelmed by the situation. Faculty will be giving you grace and remember to give your faculty grace during this transition as well.”
According to Faulkner, he is saddened for the freshmen whose first-year-experience was cut short, as well as the seniors whose four-year-journey came to a close a few months early.
“For those students for whom this year is your freshman year, my hope and prayer is that you experience more and more one of the reasons you chose AU in the first place: the community of the campus,” said Faulkner. “Even though we’re not able to connect in the Valley right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity—and in some cases, additional time—to reach out to each other and to remind each other what it means to be Ravens, no matter the distance that temporarily separates us.”
“For those students for whom this year is your Senior year, my heart especially breaks,” Faulkner continued. “This is obviously not the finish you planned for—the final semester for which you’ve been working. My encouragement to you is to make the shortlist now: those persons, places, and experiences that you’ve valued so much over the last few years. How can you plan to add even more value now?”