As the pandemic of COVID-19 continues to affect the world, schools across the nation have responded by transitioning from on-campus to online classrooms.
Pierce College is no exception when the decision to offer the entirety of Spring quarter via a virtual setting was made. Despite the unknown future, Pierce ensures that the well-being and education of its students will continue to be among the top priorities during this unprecedented quarter.
In an effort to highlight exactly how hard professors have worked to move from campus to computer, The Puyallup Post has interviewed individuals from any of the Pierce College campuses and will publish new interviews each week.
JBLM, Fort Steilacoom or Puyallup; we’re all Pierce College, we’re all in this together.
This time features:
Emily Kang, professor of English, Puyallup campus
Q – What were your classes like before?
A – Before, I taught completely grounded classes. I did all my grading on Canvas, but I didn’t do any actual instruction on canvas, it was just the course materials that were online.
Q – What was your reaction when it became official that Pierce was moving online?
A – I had a feeling it was coming. We were getting lots of emails right from the beginning that Coronavirus was getting worse, so I wasn’t surprised and I knew this [moving online] was going to be what I needed to do before spring break hit.
Q – How was the transition to move from on-campus to completely online?
A – I got some help from an instructional designer who suggested I use a master shell that’s got the basic structure of an online class. She basically did that for me and showed me how to use it and that really made a huge difference. I wouldn’t have been prepared for online teaching without that.
I also talked to a mentor at JBLM who gave me a lot of suggestions, which really helped a lot. The preparation I had to do beforehand was really huge and there’s no way I could have been able to do it if I had been teaching at the same time.
Q – If you could sum up all the hours you put into moving, how many would there be?
A – More than I could possibly count. It was really a huge amount of work upfront. I got my grades done last quarter, right at the end of finals week. I spent pretty much from that day to the first day of the spring quarter, from the time I got up to the time I went to bed, in front of the computer.
Q – What are your classes like now and how many are you offering?
A – This quarter I’m only teaching one, it’s a split of English 98, 99 and 101. It’s my first-time teaching for JBLM so I only have nine students and that’s actually working really well because it’s my first time teaching online.
I had all the assignments on Canvas already, but now I had to add supplemental material. I found some instructional videos that I posted in the readings then I created discussion boards to replace some of the discussions we would normally have in class.
I also got advice from another instructor not to try to make a discussion for every single reading, because that would be a huge amount of reading and really overwhelming. I’m really glad I got that advice because otherwise I totally would have done it. I also set up office hours on Zoom twice a week and really encourage students to take advantage of that.
Q – What’s the biggest thing you miss?
A – Definitely the classroom interactions of just being able to see and talk with students. I’m used to having a really positive classroom dynamic with a lot of discussions. I used to teach based on interacting and sharing reactions to the articles and with the online discussions, there’s been a little less of that. I’ve been impressed with students responding to those discussions and doing that work and really doing the effort to get involved and know one another, it’s just been a little harder online.
Q – Is there a bright side to any of this?
A – In having to go create new lessons to make up for the instruction that I can’t deliver in class, it’s given me the opportunity to rethink what I do. I have a bunch of writing exercises to help students with various aspects of the process of writing and I’m connecting them more directly to the assignments. In class, I’d just talk to provide examples, but by actually writing them down I was able to make them all connected and more specific. It’s given me an opportunity to really improve my teaching.
Q – What do you want to know more about and is there something you’re hoping to leave the quarter with?
A – I’d like to learn a little more about Cranium Café. I know Canvas offers it as an alternative to Zoom but I don’t know much about it. I heard some conflicting advice where it might be more secure than Zoom but might not be as user friendly.
Q – Is there anything you want students to hear right now?
A – Just to not be afraid to ask questions and recognize that now, more than ever, faculty are really willing to help. I’ve been really impressed with how positive everyone I’ve encountered has been and, if students are struggling, I just encourage them to reach out. As an instructor and especially online, I don’t know what students are struggling with unless they tell me.
Editor’s note: Answers have been shortened for clarification.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost