It Was The Best of Times; And Then There Was COVID-19

Thursday, May 14, 2020

By Bob Gessner, Dean, Science

The West Campus Science Division was in full stride during the Spring 2020 term. Many of our full-time and part-time science professors had earned their Digital Professor Certification or Active Learning Certification or were taking Faculty Development courses for these certifications. Our lab science professors had spent years developing lab experiences for our students that were the pride of our division. It appeared as if we were living in the best of times.

And then COVID-19 struck. All of a sudden, many of our professors, like those around the country and the world, needed to transition teaching their formerly face-to-face classes and labs to an entirely online format. The experience will be one that none of us will likely ever forget. With colleagues helping colleagues, both within our West Campus division and working with their peers and our Centers for Teaching/Learning Innovation staff across the College, the job was to provide the best teaching and learning experiences for our students, who were also living through very trying times.

As the workload increased substantially to make the transition happen, our professors rose to the challenge. Although many of our science faculty have expressed their thoughts about missing the face-to-face interaction with their students, there have been positive outcomes since moving into the online teaching environment.

Like many of our science professors, Eddie Santoyo, part-time faculty, biology, explained that he now gets to communicate with his students more often. Simon Tang, professor, chemistry, said that his students express their appreciation that he provides them with synchronous online lectures, which are recorded, a repeated theme among many of our professors.

Josh Knorr, part-time faculty, chemistry, is looking forward to earning his Digital Professor Certification during the summer. He has been learning about the Rubric for Online Competencies (ROC), which he said will have a big impact on his teaching practice.

Some of our lab courses are now utilizing Publisher-created virtual labs. Other lab courses in our division use videos of their existing labs, providing experimental data for the students to complete their lab reports.

When polled about offering labs online, Stephen Cramer, part-time faculty, biology, who teaches Biology of Human Sexuality, a class without a lab, exclaimed, “Lab exercises? Are they required for my class?”

Always with a sense of humor, Stephen realized that poll question was not meant for his classes.

Nalini Odapalli, professor, biology, appreciated the continuous encouragement from the College administration this spring, which she found very motivating and inspired her to search for new and creative ways to teach. The move to online teaching has resulted in the creation of learning experiences in Canvas that many of our science professors will continue to use to supplement their face-to-face classes. When we return to campus, we will return to the best of times and make them better yet.

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