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: Nathan Chang, Professor of English, Puyallup Campus
Professor Chang has been with Pierce College for three years now.
Q – What were your classes like before?
A – They were mostly in class. I had a pretty large Canvas component where I took all the assignments, I didn’t really take paper assignments or anything. I don’t really do exams but when I did, they were typically on Canvas. We used it [Canvas] for pretty much everything except discussions which we used to do in class face to face.
I did a lot of in-class projects, like with my 128 class, that’s English specifically for science, business and engineering. The engineering project was always a blast. The latest project I had them do in addition to writing an engineering report was to build a water slide out of whatever they could find and then place a marble as the person to get successfully down to the bottom.
Q – How was the transition to move from on-campus to completely online?
A – It’s been a little rough. Reworking the classes wasn’t necessarily the hard part because I’ve used Canvas before anyway. I’ve had to rework a few assignments, but it just feels distant. Maybe because this is my first time teaching purely online. Maybe I’ll get used to it, maybe I’ll work around it or maybe it’ll always just feel kind of weird. Students now send in pictures of their projects and I loved doing stuff like that, but now it’s kind of cold.
Q – If you could sum up all the hours you put into moving, how many would there be?
A – I guess in terms of reworking classes, probably not much time actually. Less than 10 hours actually, just because most materials were on Canvas initially. Really, it’s just been dealing with all the other stuff that’s come along with being online.
Q – What are your classes like now and how many are you offering?
A – At Pierce, I’m teaching English 102 and then I also teach up at Green River College in Auburn where I’m teaching English 101 and an English 128. Especially for Green River with most of my international students, I’ve really had to make my classes asynchronous just because of all the different time zones.
Q – What’s the biggest thing to get used to and the biggest thing you miss?
A – I think they [classes] feel less personal. I used to really engage students personally, we had a lot of talks in class. We would always have a little two-minute writing prompt at the beginning of each class, just a little something to get your brain up and moving. If there’s something that was going on, we would talk about what we had written for the prompt. I felt like I had really gotten to know a lot of my students pretty personally and that was really cool. I’ve definitely had students over the years who really need that face to face contact where being online doesn’t really work for them.
Q – Is there a bright side to any of this?
A – I have more time to keep my house clean. Since the classes are totally asynchronous, I got the classes set up and now they’re running on autopilot. I answer emails and grade papers when they come in, which has its advantages. Not having to commute is also something, but is it worth that [personal] trade off?
Q – Aside from teaching, how have you kept busy during quarantine?
A – I’m a novelist so I’ve had more time to write.
Q – Is there anything you want students to hear right now?
A – I think more than anything else I would want students to know that I’m very much here for them. I always make it a point to tell students that I’m here for them, I’m here to help them become better readers, better writers, better citizens.
I’m not teaching for fame, glory or money, and heaven knows teaching is never going to get me any of those things anyway. I’m here because I really love working with students and I really love helping people better themselves. Even though they can’t physically see me, I’m still here for the exact same reason.
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