Over the past month, our university has moved all courses to a 100% virtual platform in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. While there have been many speed bumps and many things we could, and have and will continue to, complain about, we felt that certain members of the university community have earned some praise for their handling of this crisis.
The faculty, specifically, has done an excellent job with the cards they were dealt. Many of the most successful classes at this point, from the view of our staff, have in fact been the classes that were once thought impossible to teach virtually.
We would like to first commend the art department as their transition was particularly difficult considering the work they do and how heavily it relies on in-person lectures and demonstrations. Art students, additionally, must now contend with virtual exhibitions and compiling portfolios at home.
Yet the efforts of art and art history professors, such as professor Julie McGee, have gone above and beyond to accommodate their students. Inside the virtual classroom, professors have shifted to written work, shortened lectures and moved to formats like Google Slides. Outside the virtual classroom, professors like McGee have made it clear to their students that they truly care about their emotional well-being during this crisis and have made themselves available outside normal class times, even just to talk.
In the communication department, professors Amy Bleakley, Lindsay Hoffman and Dannagal Young have also gone the extra mile during this time. During her first year at the university, Bleakley has made the seamless transition online, keeping her students in the loop every step of the way, even offering weekly Q & A sessions. Hoffman sends students lighthearted daily distractions from the world outside and stays after every class to check in with students. Young always has an engaging lecture prepared and remains understanding with her students when it comes to assignments.
In the history department, professor Darryl Flaherty has split his class into smaller sections to ensure every student gets an opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the discussion. In doing so, he’s increased engagement and overall student satisfaction with the course. Professor Arwen Mohun has also adjusted her sophomore seminar class to the current climate, switching out some assignments for more timely coronavirus-related reflections and discussions, which all provide a unique and helpful perspective to students when it comes to absorbing their current situation.
Professor Rudi Matthee, the distinguished professor of middle eastern history at the university, extended the deadline for one of his class’s midterms to a full week after a student petitioned him, explaining that students do not necessarily have more time now that most of them are quarantined at home.
Matthee told the student that he understands how difficult it is to be a student right now because he has a son in college. The last thing he wants to be is inflexible, he told the student.
Other professors have shifted syllabi to take the stress off of students during tests, putting more focus on participation and engagement. We are truly appreciative of all the hard work every professor has put into their classes, despite themselves experiencing the exact same crisis that students are. However, we also fear that these courtesies will, in many cases, only be employed as long as the classrooms remain empty. From our perspective, these new methods have absolutely helped us as students at home, and we hope these practices will be evaluated and remain a part of the curriculum in future online and in-person classes. We are of the opinion that empathy and passion on the part of professors should not end just because the pandemic does.
The Review’s editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Victoria Calvin, Copy Desk Chief. She may be reached at VCalvin@udel.edu.