Students are not alone in their adjustments to online learning. While they were given an "extra" week of spring break, staff and faculty were busy working to transition students to online learning. 

Professors are making adjustments to syllabi which they created months beforehand. Learning objectives need tweaking and in some cases the entire course programming has shifted directions.

Physics professor Eric Kincanon faced the challenge of many students not having their PHYS 104 lecture notes at home with them and having an exam scheduled for the week following spring break. 

“I had a few choices and decided to scrub the material since the last exam and generate a new coverage for the rest of the semester that did not rely on students having notes,” Kincanon said in an email. 

Communications professor Melissa Click said she has been focused on making course changes that do not penalize students given the circumstances.

“I have been thinking a lot of Cura Personalis. We need to make sure we’re thinking through students’ whole selves right now. I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s doable at a distance, and under the kinds of stress I imagine students might be under,” Click said in an email. 

Click and Kincanon have both made revisions to what class participation looks like as well. Kincanon’s participation grade was derived solely from attendance, so he opted to drop the participation grade for his courses. Click decided to pursue asynchronous communication for participation. 

Both professors decided that having class on Zoom was not a feasible option for them. Kincanon is providing lecture transcripts supplemented by readings and online references, as well as videos for the lab portion of his courses. Lab specialists are recording lab introductions and procedures, which allows students to record the data and do their own lab write-ups, according to Kincanon. 

Click has opted to use videos and emails as the primary line of communication with her students, while also being available on Zoom during class time should students have any questions. 

Both professors emphasized that flexibility is going to be key in this transition.

Kincanon said so far things seem to be going well with students responding to the new course format. If students are in need of any additional accommodations, he plans to address them on an individual basis. 

“I’ve promised students lots of patience from me, and I’ve requested the same from them," Click said. “What’s important is that everyone feels they are able to finish the semester online — and feel like they are supported and learning.”  

Child care is a question that both students and professors are confronting. While Kincanon has no young children at home, Click emphasized that when you have kids, you are always dealing with child care in one way or another. 

“I think the bigger part of this involves the fact that our kids also aren’t going to school, and that they need supervision at home to complete the asynchronous tasks their teachers have given them,” Click said.  

Kincanon said he is feeling disappointed about the switch to online learning.

“What I am offering the students online is just not up to what can be experienced through the classroom. What I have is at best acceptable, and that is only in the context of having had a half semester to already work with the students,” he said. 

“I think it will be challenging until we find a ‘new normal,’” Click said. 

Ginger Monroe is a staff writer.

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