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The Ups and Downs of Teaching Remotely

by Jack Sloane

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Purchase College professors have been facing all kinds of challenges over the past year when it comes to remote teaching.

One challenge is that it can be quite difficult for professors to properly get to know their students due to the lack of in-person classes.

Jennifer Uleman, a philosophy professor, says that not being able to see and communicate with the students in an intimate setting is a definite challenge, that also takes away from some of the learning experience. Not being able to make proper eye contact and see an entire classroom to get a sense of how everyone’s feeling is definitely a loss, and it’s overall difficult to teach this through the remote-method.

“Philosophy is a discipline grounded in conversation and sustained exchange. We are managing, but Zoom is not the right forum for this subject,” said Uleman.

Remote learning makes it challenging for students to get the help they need in a timely matter, with delays being very common. This causes students to have more trouble with the subject at hand and can lead to learning difficulties.

Stephen Harris, a biology professor, has faced this problem many times when it comes to the coding aspect of the course. In-person, it was very quick to fix a coding issue, but online, it’s a much longer and more tedious process.

“Now, each mistake takes several minutes to troubleshoot because I have to explain to the student exactly how to get out of their problem,” said Harris.

Some classes provide more unique challenges as a result of having to teach remotely. Suzannah Kincannon is a lecturer in physical education, teaching classes such as Zumba dance fitness. She has found that the loss of personal connection on the dance floor has been very difficult, as it’s harder for her to fully see when a particular student is having difficulty with something, and is not able to help them as well.

“It is also very difficult to provide corrections on alignment and particular dance steps through Zoom,” said Kincannon.

Another big challenge for some professors is the balance of their home and teaching lives. Some of them have families to provide for, along with teaching.

Usha Rungoo, an assistant professor who teaches French and literature, has a 17-month-old toddler at home, along with a partner who’s also working from home. The balance between work and looking after their kid can be hard.

“He works Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while I look after our son, and I work Tuesday, Thursday, and Sataurday while he looks after him. It’s exhausting,” said Rungoo.

Professor Harris has two young daughters who are also learning online, which has proven to be very difficult to balance. In the beginning, he was more hands-on with their classes, and although they’re more independent now, he still has to prepare and set-up everything.

“Constant, albeit small, interruptions to the day make it nearly impossible to engage in the kind of scientific writing and research needed for my career,” said Harris.

While there are all sorts of difficulties when it comes to remote teaching, it’s not all bad. There are some benefits that come along with it that can improve the experience. Rungoo, for example, is able to do a combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes.

“It’s more flexible in terms of time, not just for me, but for my students as well. I think they appreciate that,” said Rungoo.

Kincannon notes that quieter students tend to speak out more due to feeling more comfortable, which can lead her to help them out when needed more.

Uleman says that not having to commute is a definite convenience and makes things a bit easier overall.

The main consensus, though, is that everyone is very much looking forward to being able to teach in-person again.

Rungoo, “…absolutely,” wants to get back to in-person teaching. She also hopes that when returning, she’ll be able to put some of the skills she learned during remote teaching, such as designing online courses, recording lectures, etc. to good use.

“I’ve spent so much time designing these courses, I hope I can use the material beyond this temporary online phase,” said Rungoo.

“Yes, being able to teach in-person again is 100% what I want to be able to do as soon as possible. I cannot wait to get back on campus,” said Kincannon.



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