By Lauren Wolters
With Turkey Day approaching and COVID-19 circling the University of Findlay community like a vulture, the UF community seems to have a lot more on their plates this year. Both students and faculty’s plates were piled high with the normal stress of a semester and the added stress of COVID-19 procedures. Professors had to work to prepare for the upcoming switch a little differently than normal.
In an email interview, adjunct computer science instructor, Robert Wardzala shared his COVID-19-friendly classroom set up for the fall semester. He split his Digital Literacy classes into three groups which rotate zooming the class, so there is always 2/3 of the class present in person. Each group zooms class one day a week. The idea behind Wardzala’s strategy is to limit contact tracing and allow students to socially distance in the classroom.
“I think I want to cover as much as I can before that time,” Wardzala stated. “I think Zoom is hard for students, and the tendency to lose focus is much greater.”
Although some students say Zoom can make focusing during class more difficult it may also enable students to understand content better because Zoom meetings are often recorded.
“I think zoom recordings are helpful for student to go back and review what was talked about and follow the lab instructions more closely,” Wardzala said.
The in-class procedures are similar in the physical sciences department. Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Nathan Tice, split his Chemistry 130 class into two groups, much like Wardzala.
“On Monday, Group A will be in person while Group B will join in real time virtually through Zoom. Then on Wednesday, Group B will be in person and Group A will be on Zoom,” Tice explained.
In some of Tice’s higher-level chemistry courses the classrooms are big enough for the whole class to attend every day. Even so, he records all of the Zoom meetings for students who need the virtual accommodation.
Instructor of Teaching in Chemistry, Kathleen Grine has also split her Chemistry 111 class into two groups and records the Zoom meetings.
“All of my lectures are recorded on Zoom and posted to Canvas for people who can’t make it to the live Zoom meeting or want to re-watch something,” Grine stated.
Tice says the set-up is definitely something new.
“This is different from previous semesters, as our chemistry courses have historically been 100% face-to-face without any online component,” Tice said.
Grine the chemistry department adopted a grouping system for the labs this semester.
“The first sub-group comes the first 75 minutes of the lab period, then we have a 15-minute break for students to leave and re-enter,” Grine said. “Then the second sub-group comes in and does the lab.”
Tice describes a similar set up for his labs. Students do all the prelab work before they go to the lab because there is not time to complete it in the split class period.
“We try to make the adjustments necessary for each lab to be able to be finish safely and in the smaller amount of time allowed,” Tice states. “So, this is also an adjustment as compared to previous semesters, as students normally get to work as one group and with lab partners.”
Grine’s organic chemistry labs cannot be completed in half the lab period, so she only has one subgroup come per week, and the other subgroup completes a virtual lab that week.
“The lab prof is teaching the same experiment face-to-face for two weeks in order to get both of the sub-groups of a section through an experiment,” Grine said.
Tice says he and the physical science department are ready to switch to a fully online format if need be. Labs and course materials are available online, so Tice believes that any transition to fully online would go smoothly.
“I’ve even gotten in the habit of offering virtual office hours and review sessions, which have worked very well,” Tice said.
With the number of COVID-19 cases rising, Grine has had to record more of her in-person labs to send to quarantining students.
“I have noticed an uptick in the number of students quarantining lately, so that means I have to get video links out to more people individually,” Grine said.
Tice says UF’s recent rise in COVID-19 cases has not really altered his approach to teaching this year since the university planned ahead in case of an outbreak.
“We all would love to have students in person for every class period,” Tice said. “However, I think as an institution that we’ve struck the right balance between the need for student safety and student engagement.”