By: Makena Doseck
Professors reflect on how virtual learning has changed their teaching styles
The faculty at UF have had to deal with switching their classes that were mainly in-person to a fully virtual or hybrid classroom.
With COVID-19’s rapid spread, many professors had to scramble to get their courses adjusted to online work to finish out the spring semester.
Christine Denecker, the Director of the Center for Teaching and Program Excellence, along with other tech-savvy professors helped their coworkers to figure out how to function online.
“There was a group of us who had some online teaching experience or understood how to optimize Zoom and Canvas,” said Denecker. “So, we set up help sessions in Shafer Library for anyone who wanted to get help.”
Since she worked closely with professors, she was able to see how COVID-19 affected them in the beginning. “Just like students, professors have experienced stress. They miss seeing their students face-to-face; they miss the kinds of interaction and engagement they were used to having in the classroom,” Denecker said.
An interaction that was made more difficult since social distancing and virtual class has been put in place have been lab courses.
Dr. Joanna Beres, Instructor of Teaching in Chemistry, explains some setbacks that the coronavirus has created in her courses.
“In the Gen Chem labs, we only have one hood so if there was a lot of work that needs to be done in the hood only two people could stand in that hood at one time and be 6-foot distance,” Beres said. “You can see someone do a skill and it’s very hard to translate that into actual skills that one can do themselves,”
Nicole Williams from the College of Education (COE) runs a course based around technology for education majors. With her tech knowledge, the switch to online was different compared to other professors.
“Students were not expected to come to class face to face anymore, so that was a big change,” Williams said. “The expectations for the course activities didn’t change because of the fact that it’s a technology course.”
Professors say hind-sight is 20/20 and now realize the importance of technology in the future of education.
“It is never bad to start looking at the technology available in advance,” Beres said. “It’s very likely that there will be more events to come, whether they be natural disasters, a pandemic, or weather occurrences, that we need to be adaptable. Things that don’t adapt become obsolete, so it’s better to learn it when you have the time rather than to be forced to do it quickly.”
“I wish I would have had the iPad (in Spring 2020) because I am now recording my face-to-face classes so students can go back and access those if they miss class,” Williams said. “I didn’t have that before so students who got quarantined, and there were a lot of them, missed that class time and it wasn’t recorded.”
“I think professors are becoming more and more comfortable with their new teaching situations, but everyone could just use more time to practice and innovate,” Denecker said. “That’s just a luxury that nobody has right now, so we will continue to learn as we go.”