How are professors coping with the sudden campus closure?
The university’s announcement to move spring break up to March 14, much like coronavirus, took everyone by surprise. Uncertainty and confusion followed the notice, issued after multiple members of the university community tested positive for the disease.
While students are debating how to leave campus and manage their sudden break, professors are swamped with work: postponing midterm exams, changing course schedules and shifting entirely to online classes are just a few of their many worries.
“I had exams planned for this week, so it had been a very busy one for both me and my students,” Geology professor Claire O’Neal said. “My first thought went to logistics, ‘How are my students going to take the exam?’ My inbox will be flooded.”
A number of professors have canceled their midterm exams, but a more immediate concern for them is the alteration to online classes, beginning March 30.
A few professors seem ready for this change due to earlier experiences of teaching online. However, others are skeptical. They have either never conducted an online class or their classes are such that they cannot be taught virtually.
“I am comfortable taking my courses online and I will figure out what to do with my exams; I will either make them online-ready or substitute for another assignment,” Lindsay Hoffman, an associate communication professor, stated in an email.
It is easier to teach a class online when the content is largely theoretical and does not require a hands-on approach, but faculty from departments like chemistry, biology and engineering face a harder situation, since a lot of their coursework have labs that require physical presence.
“My colleagues and I, together with our whole team of TAs are working hard to figure out how to teach geology labs online,” O’Neal said.
Some are even worried that losing face-to-face contact in classes and office hours will make it more difficult for students to reach out and get help, and it may compromise the quality of education that students will be receiving.
“My course is hands-on TV production, right now it is unclear how I will be able to adapt and yet still offer students the same exposure and experience I know they expect and need,” Nancy Karibjanian, director of the university’s center for political communication, stated in an email.
Professors said that students are their first priority. They urged students to be patient and communicative as both sides navigate the situation together.
Amidst the different ways the faculty members feel about the steps taken by the university, there is one common consensus: All necessary measures should be taken for the health and safety of the university community.
The professors are working hard to prepare as best they can to help students and to keep the classes running. The next week of preparation will be a learning curve for everyone in terms of what works and what does not.
“I think it was the best plan in a situation where a lot of choices were hard to make,” Jennifer Trivedi, an anthropology professor, said. “I am glad I have the time to plan and learn more information, so I can give my students the best online learning I can pull together on a short notice.”