Shepherd University Professors Weigh in on Classes Being Held Online

Shepherdstown, W.Va., –  As a whole year of COVID protocols and classes being taught in person, online, a combination of both, synchronously or asynchronously, I spoke with professors to learn more about how it has affected their instruction.

Synchronous learning requires attendance at scheduled meetings or lectures. Asynchronous learning allows students to access materials, ask questions and practice their skills at any time that works for them.

Both types of learning during the pandemic have not been easy for students and professors alike as there are difficulties with internet and equipment at hand and when in person social distancing measures must still be followed.

Professor Monica Larson from the communication department says, “I think there is certainly a place for online learning; I earned my MFA in an online environment and had a very rich experience. However, the success of an online course requires that several criteria be met. The most important of these is that the student’s individual learning style is supported.”

Dr. Matthew Kushin of the communication department will be teaching the strategic campaigns course in the fall. Strategic campaigns is a hands-on class that serves as a bridge between college and what it is like to work in the field of public relations.

In the strategic campaigns course students will learn to plan an entire communication campaign by working with a real-world client. “In the past we have worked with nonprofits, a tech startup from Boston and a local iPhone app company,” Kushin said.

“As a professor, it is much easier to see what is working in a class when teaching in person. When teaching in person students engage more with you, and with their classmates,” noted Larson.

When teaching online, students need to not only overcome their hesitation to engage, but also technical challenges. Sometimes the internet connection is sketchy which is not uncommon when on campus or in a household where multiple people are in meetings at the same time.

Professor Cecilia Melton in the department of environmental studies will be teaching foundations in environmental science Ⅰ and Ⅱ along with the lab sections of those courses.

Melton says, “I have been teaching my classes online asynchronously the past year, but I am scheduled to teach all the classes in person in the fall and I am looking forward to it.”

In a discussion, students may need to follow more “rules” to participate, perhaps having to raise a digital hand or to unmute themselves when they really just want to be able to take part in a more free discussion.

Larson has enjoyed parts of these two semesters teaching exclusively online. “On a personal level, it is easy for me to get up, step outside and take a break in nature. I get to have lunch with my husband. Teaching-wise, It is forcing me to organize classes much more. However, with that organization comes a great deal more preparation, and I often miss the spontaneity that marks my favorite teaching experiences.”

This fall Larson will be teaching history of advertising (COMM 306) once again. The more Larson teaches the class, “the more interested I become in the little stories I discover about different campaigns.

“I’ve also discovered a pretty cool online multimedia timeline-making tool that makes it easy to integrate video and audio into the curriculum,” Larson noted.

Melton is particularly looking forward to teaching ENVS 401 which includes field trips and in classroom discussions, something they were unable to have with online classes.

Fall 2021 is full of hope for all professors not just at Shepherd but across the country as more and more vaccines roll out and life slowly is shifting back to normal. Class discussions, on campus events, and field trips all are so close.

So, hang tight and stay hopeful and until told otherwise continue to wear a mask and follow Shepherd’s COVID-19 protocols.

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