Featuring: Alan Kemp, professor of Sociology, Fort Steilacoom

Kemp has been full-time with Pierce for 30 years and is planning his retirement at the end of August.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the world, schools across the nation have responded by transitioning from grounded to online classrooms.

The Puyallup Post has interviewed professors from all of the Pierce College campuses to highlight their experiences of transitioning from campus to computer and will public new segments regularly.

Whether we’re discussing JBLM, Fort Steilacoom or Puyallup; we’re all Pierce College.

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Professor Alan Kemp

Q – What was your reaction when it became official that Pierce was moving to online?

         A – Well, the requirement that we offer our content from a distance wasn’t expected, although we all knew that the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming a big problem. The faculty were directed to begin offering classes virtually. Now, we didn’t initially get a whole lot of specifics about how to carry this out. Really, it came as a shock. Now, I’m pretty comfortable in the classroom, I’ve been teaching for a long time. However, I no longer felt comfortable teaching online.

Q – How was the transition to move from on-campus to completely online?

         A – Colleagues who know me were concerned because they knew I wasn’t an online teacher. One of them, Professor Jennifer Maclin, took it a step further and told me she had a shell of her intro course I could use, but really went beyond that and told me I should use it as a place to start. I became very grateful she went the extra step with me.

Over the break, I also did a lot of questioning. I remember my online training from 25 years before and knew I did not like asynchronous teaching. What I decided was that since students had signed up for an 8 a.m., 9 a.m. or 11 a.m. class, I would require everyone to show up every day for real-time lectures or discussions.

Day one, it was a disaster. We really didn’t know how to communicate with each other very effectively in this new situation. I knew I wanted to do it because I felt that having a regular routine, even if for just an hour, might help normalize this whole COVID-19 experience we were all having. I also felt it was important to make connections at this time when we were being forced to practice social distancing.

So, I made just one change in my original plan. I no longer required students to be in class in real-time. I would still be there every day during our regular class time and they were free to join me if they wanted to.

Q – If you could sum up all the hours you put into moving, how many would there be?

         A – So, I had a shell for an intro class with lots of bells and whistles. I had a sense of what could be done. I just didn’t know how to do it. So, while on break, I began conducting YouTube searches and using the Faculty Guide to Canvas to learn how to do things. I’m not really sure how many hours I put into this, but over the course of the break, it was maybe 60 to 80 hours. Now, I still wasn’t very confident, but at least I had something to begin with.

Q – What are your classes like now and how many are you offering?

         A – Two of SOC 101 and one of SOC 212. We seem to be hitting our stride. Now, my classes are very full with 35 or more. And, I understand that online teaching can be burdensome in terms of things to read, grades to enter, assignments to create, etc., so I’ve tried to create modules with so-called low stakes assignments that can be completed and build confidence without too many fears about performance. I try to only do a couple graded assignments per week, per class. I’ve scheduled exams, just like I’ve always done in my grounded classes.

I think it’s actually worked out pretty well. I check into each class 15 minutes early, remind folks that they should hit the Refresh button often to see lectures or discussions in real time, and ask them to say a little something so we know they’re there.

Q – What’s the biggest thing you miss?

         A – I haven’t taught online in over 25 years (back when we used Blackboard and Angel) and there’s a reason for that. I like real-time class interaction.

Q – Is there a bright side to any of this?

         A – Now in addition to teaching, I’m a published textbook author, having written three peer-reviewed titles for major textbook publishers. I’m used to communicating with readers through my writing. Indeed, I see writing as just another way of teaching. And now, I’m seeing online teaching as just another way of teaching. My confidence is growing.

Q – Is there anything you want students to hear right now?

         A – We’re building a classroom community. We’re trying to support and help each other, and that’s what I think it’s all about.

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

Kathryn Scott

Featuring: Alan Kemp, professor of Sociology, Fort Steilacoom

by Kathryn Scott time to read: 3 min