EMU is in its fifth week of all-online classes and students and professors alike continue to adjust to this new educational setting.
Because of the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, professors had to adjust course content to an online format in the middle of the semester with little warning. Using online tools like Canvas and Zoom, professors are challenged with making the transition smooth so as to give students the same quality of education as they were receiving while on campus.
This is a challenging task and speaking with professors across several different departments, the struggles that professors currently face range from technology issues to internal struggles to home-life changes.
Dr. Gregory Plagens, a professor in the political science department, said that he is struggling personally with the lack of interaction he now faces due to social isolation.
“I derive energy and motivation from those contacts . . . Being in front of a computer is a large part of being a faculty member, but the move to 100% computer work has introduced a mental challenge to overcome that I am working on day by day,” said Plagens.
He also said that overall, students have adapted well to the less-than-ideal circumstances, though some students have expressed disruptions in their personal lives that are now affecting their education.
“Overall, students in my courses have been incredibly resilient and upbeat about the changes. Like it or not, we have all been introduced to fully online education under less than ideal circumstances, but I am thankful that the university was able to give us so much technology to work with to complete our courses as best we can,” Plagens continued.
Christina-Marie Sears, who currently teaches WRTG 120 and 121, said that the biggest challenges she sees her students dealing with is lack of internet access and a disruption in their schedules. She also said some of her students are considered essential workers and that this can make coordinating class work more difficult.
On a bright note, Sears said that she thinks her students are devoted to their studies and that they are making an effort to support each other. She says the majority of her students are committed to finishing strong this semester.
Dr. You Li, an assistant professor of journalism, echoed similar sentiments stating that only two of her 80 students have disappeared from class after the online transition. Like other professors I spoke with, Li said transitioning her course content online has come with it’s challenges. She said it can take more than 2 hours to put together a 30-minute lecture to post online and that a class discussion that would normally take 10-15 minutes of class time, now takes over an hour to grade so as to give each student the proper feedback.
Dr. Li also has a daughter in kindergarten, who is now at home until school starts back up in September. Li said that having a child that needs to be homeschooled and requires attention around the clock makes teaching online even more difficult, but that setting boundaries for time, such as time for homeschooling and time for lecturing/grading has helped her greatly.
On top of normal class work such as lecturing, many professors are also engaged in research or various committees. Dr. Li said that class work makes up only one-third of her job, as she is also involved in two university committees and is a research chair for a division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, while also collaborating on a data research project.
One thing is clear: although students and professors are all working from home now, the workload we all face has definitely not diminished.
One common theme among most professors was that most students prefer recorded lectures over real-time zoom lectures, so that students can complete lectures when it is convenient for them. Dr. Li said that of her students, only about 60% claimed to be able to attend zoom lectures.
Overall, most professors were encouraged by how their students are reacting to the change and there was certainly a sense of optimism in the fact that we are all facing this crisis together. It certainly seems that these professors are finding motivation in the strength and resilience of their students.
EMU professors and students alike are pushing forward in the name of education in these difficult times, and we are going to get through this together. I think everyone can agree we all look forward to being back on campus in the fall.