Adam Schwartz, a professor in the School of Language, Culture and Society at Oregon State University, said he is learning a lot about online teaching through the platform Zoom, and that it is a new learning experience for himand his students.
For Schwartz, the experience has been both negative and positive.
“I miss sharing the physical classroom space with my students terribly,” Schwartz said. “I miss the energy we share and the community we can build there—that can be hard to replicate in a virtual setting.”
Zoom, one of the most prominent platforms used by professors at OSU, brought different opinions about teaching online.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on students’ mental health, but professors—who have the demanding task of mentoring these students— have also felt the impact.
Professor at the School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, Viktor E. Bovjberg considers Zoom to be a wonderful tool, but far from a replacement of being together.
“Instructors need to be very careful about assuring other means for students to connect and engage, particularly asynchronously─ lots of folks are juggling many roles in life right now, making synchronous connections a challenge at times,” Bovjberg said.
For Yuji Hiratsuka, a professor at the School of Arts and Communication, Zoom is a useful tool for learning because it is free of charge and solely requires an internet connection, but it’s not a replacement for in-person teaching.
“My classes were hands-on studio lab contents using special equipment, machines, chemicals and tools which are not available at the home setting. Basically, I was teaching how to make guacamole without avocado,” Hiratsuka said.
This particular setting is common not only for art and design classes but also for laboratory courses and clinical instruction, where in-person learning makes the process more productive than at home.
“We are already establishing a ‘new life’ concept. We’ve learned that we can conduct our teaching and working practice without physical classrooms or offices,” Hiratsuka said. “This fact can cut a great deal of expenses to maintain physical space… That being said, not meeting friends and family members in person made this somewhat uncomfortable.”
Hiratsuka is confident that meeting one on one and in small groups can help the connection between students and professors, minimizing the struggles of remote learning.
As a professor, Schwartz considers it to be most important for faculty to be compassionate and empathetic with each other, and to work on accessibility for the students more than ever.
“We’re mourning, this is a deadly pandemic,” Schwartz said.
As we approach 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of 330,000 individuals as of Dec. 27, solely in the United States, according to the CDC.
“I’m terribly grateful for so much right now. But this is a time for grieving. So much has been taken away —whether it’s loved ones claimed by the virus or the comforts of daily routines with friends and colleagues on campus. Nothing about this seems to get easier,” Schwartz said.