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By Micah DeSilva

In the era of COVID-19, education is in crisis, and if you’ve had any interaction with the current discussion around education, you likely already know this. However, this discussion is often had from the student’s perspective, and often only covers topics relevant to the struggles of students. Students make up only half of the education picture, yet teachers are hardly ever mentioned. No small task, teachers have been forced to adapt their entire curriculums to e-learning. Perhaps we should be asking the question on the flipside: how has the switch to online learning affected teachers?

For some, the switch to online has been smooth. Most teachers who have found success in teaching online are those who have had prior experience with the platform. Beth Frazier, a professor of Biology and a PE teacher at SVC, is one example. The switch was not difficult, said Frazier, who continued “I had experience teaching online before we moved to remote operations, which helped a lot.” She went on to describe the experience of her students, who have had varying degrees of success during the transition, with some enjoying the freedom provided by online education, and others preferring in-person classes. “One thing I have been doing,” Frazier said, “is trying to make my assignments transparent (…) It’s a strategy to help enhance student learning and success, by clearly outlining the purpose of the assignment, the tasks to be done, and how the assignment is evaluated.”

For others, however, the switch to online has been more difficult to navigate. Heather Davidson, another teacher at SVC, detailed her experience by comparing her previous classroom strategies with the current e-classroom model. “My classroom was a dynamic and engaging environment pre-pandemic,” she said. “I used a lot of small group activities to illustrate course concepts, and included games geared at improving public speaking skills.” Since the switch to e-learning, Davidson says, her classroom sessions have been moved entirely to Zoom, which makes for a particular challenge when attempting to teach public speaking skills. “I’ve done my best to work with our constraints,” she said, “and to engage students in the development of their skills. One unexpected but useful aspect of being online is the practice students get with preparation of virtual presentations in the work world. I feel we are going to be conducting more of those than ever before.”

For teachers with more experience online, it seems that the switch has been easier, according to Bob Malphrus, a human services teacher at SVC. In the week before the move to online, he said, “The department that I worked with had a grand total of two courses that had been done online and I taught both of them. (…) I had to help everybody.” He went on to commend the college for their quick and efficient response, and offered some insight as to how to find success in an online format. “The problem with doing everything online is that you have to do everything. (…) The faculty members that really got frustrated, in my opinion, were the ones that tried to do too much.” Malphrus continued, expressing his support for the practice of offering dynamic Zoom meetings, or none at all. “I offer two different sessions each day, you can attend in the morning or you can attend in the evening, so those who have morning obligations can do evening, and vice versa.”