The COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected employees, doctors, seniors, students, but professors as well.
Many instructors have had to change many things around in their syllabus due to the online transition. Tests and lectures that were once in a classroom are now Zoom meetings from home.
Jeremy Kirk, associate professor of music teaches introduction to world music, world music ensemble, private lessons, directs the jazz band, and percussion ensemble. He tells his thoughts about the big adjustment. He said, “It was certainly necessary. We have to take these necessary steps in a time like this. We’re all disappointed, obviously. Students, professors, and coaches alike. It is a necessary step that we have to take in order to flatten the curve and to keep everyone’s health and safety as a priority.”
Some classes have easily made the move to virtual classes, but with a music class, it was more difficult.
“I prefer in-person classes over online. Especially being in the arts, we like to create asthetic moments together and it is hard to replicate that online. However, electronic classes do have their advantages. Students can work at their own pace on their own time when schedules might be more demanding,” said Kirk.
“I have made the most accommodations to my introduction to world music course. This is a very hands-on class where we play a lot of different instruments. We use a lot of drums, and we drum together as a whole in some of our exercises. We experiment music in a lot of hands-on activities. Due to the virus, that is completely gone now; we don’t have that option anymore. I am thankful that we did get to experience that for the first half of the semester,” said Kirk.
“Another positive thing that has come from the COVID-19, was how we have branched out and talked about other cultures that we normally wouldn’t talk about,” said Kirk. “
“For example, we just finished a discussion on Italy, and how the Corona Virus has had an impact on them. Italy is not a location that we usually discuss, but given the circumstances in order to connect with them more, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do that through music. We’ve watched some viral videos of the people that were quarantined in Italy come together and sing opera from their balconies. By doing this, we can understand them better and become better global citizens, which we really need right now more than ever,” said Kirk.
Down the hill, and in the science department, Patrick Ross, professor of biology, fills in his side of the story about his adaptations.
“I don’t like that we don’t have school anymore. It messed up some of the plans that I had for this semester. As a science professor, a big part of teaching a science class is our labs that we participate in. I always tell my students that you can’t learn science without getting your hands dirty. The labs are such a central, hands-on thing that we do with our students and it is very difficult to do those things at such a distance. I’ve never been a big fan of distance-learning for the sciences. The analogy that I use to best describe it is like trying to teach someone how to play the flute without ever touching the flute. That is particularly relevant with our anatomy class, because we have cadaver labs where students can dissect them and learn about the human anatomy. I am not allowed to do that over zoom, so I’m sad the students have to miss that vital part of the learning process.”
“I definitely prefer in-person classes, and not just for the laboratory aspect of it. We all get into teaching for different reasons. When I got to the University of Wisconsin as an undergraduate, I was undecided between biology and theatre, and obviously, I chose biology. When I became a teaching assistant, I found that I could be onstage and online at the same time, but there’s no fun being onstage if there’s nobody there to interact with you, to ask questions, or to talk to you. I know ultimately whatever I teach on video is going to get to my students, but that in person back-and-forth interaction is preferred. I also can see if a person’s lightbulb are turning on or off; if they understand what I’m saying or not. When in person, I can then explain those things to that student and help them with the stuff that is all lost,” said Ross.
Ross hopes that students are absorbing and understanding all of the information that he is sending them.
Ross said, “You know, I just record these lectures on zoom, and send them off into the ether, and hope they make an impact. What I really need is that feedback, and even just to see their faces, because I like my students.”
Ross is not the only one that misses the students.
“Kirby, my dog also misses all of the students too. He’s been pretty bored at the house with just my family and I.”
Some goodbyes were never officially made to the seniors.
“The science division does some really cool things for our seniors. We have a senior awards celebration which is the day before graduation. We bring all of them and their friends and families together in Beech, the science building, so they can show off where they spent the last four years studying and preparing for the rest of their lives. We also give out awards in the academic areas. Typically, that’s the student with the highest GPA, service, in terms of who’s given the most back to the science program, and we also give an award to the student that has done some fantastic work in terms of research. That is actually a tradition that I started when I became a division chair about fifteen years ago. Students will still get their awards, they will just be in a different way this year given the circumstances,” said Ross.
Kurt Keiser, professor of business said, “I think cancelling school was inevitable due to safety reasons.”
Keiser prefers face-to-face classes over online classes.
“Online classes are really not my cup of tea. I’d rather be in the classroom, teaching and working. I definitely feel more comfortable there,” said Keiser.
Keiser explains his concern for his students.
“I am worried about my students’ safety and making sure they don’t get this dreaded disease. I also want the students to stay positive. On all media platforms, all you hear is talk about the deadly virus, and the loss of life, and I just hope that they aren’t too overwhelmed or shaken by that. On a more practical level, I don’t want any students to lose interest in college as a whole, or SC, or give up on their studies,” said Keiser.
With the switch to virtual classes, there has been a difference in attendance.
Keiser said, “There has probably been about half of my students attending my zoom sessions compared to what I would normally see in the classroom. Some of my students were ahead of their assignments on the syllabus, because I have done an online aspect for a couple of years now. All of the assignments are due at the end of the semester, so some students got ahead and they don’t necessarily have to show up for the lectures.”
Mallory Graves reported on this story from her home in Ardmore, Oklahoma.