6 feet away or zoom to stay: higher education adjusts to COVID-19

From the WRBL Internship Assignment Desk

This story was produced as part of the WRBL 2020 Summer Intern program

COVID-19 has resulted in an economic standstill. Sporting events, religious gatherings, and school activities have been canceled to this horrific plague.

Fall 2020 will result in schools opening, raising the questions to continue online, or reopen doors to come back. Social distancing requiring you to stay 6-feet from others will be hard to come by limited classroom space.

Chris Robinson, Communication Professor of Columbus State University is ready to go back and do what he loves.

Talking about the pandemic, Robinson said he first heard about COVID-19 in late December and early January.

“I was concerned because anytime that there is a virus you start thinking about any precautions that you can take to be safe but also you have to include family members. And you want to make sure you’re being as responsible as possible,” said Robinson. “Teachers look after students whether it’s conversations about their degree or life.”

Robinsons says it was tough adjusting to the new teaching style.

“As a technology teacher, you’re trying to teach new things. In order to teach new skills or update students on technology, you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. All students do not have the same equipment at home, so it makes it more difficult to teach,” Robinson said. “There are instances where I have had students ask questions that are not able to be answered online. Learning opportunities change results in the way of teaching adjustments.”

Though the process of learning and teaching has transformed, the main objective is to allow students to continue to learn or the educator has failed to do their job. The changes to the delivery of teaching result in professors having to break down step by step lessons and assignments in a way that reaches every type of learner.

“I’ve been more emphatic. In society, we have been trying to move forward and return to business as usual when really it’s not business as usual. People’s lives have been turned upside down. I’ve become a lot more humble and more willing to work with students and hear them out, “said Robinson.

August is approaching meaning school is about to begin and classroom management or online courses have to be solidified. The health of students is important along with teachers. Keeping everyone healthy will be hard to come by even with rules finalized.          

“I would like a hybrid model moving forward because there will be health concerns that ripple at minimum for the next 2 to 3 years, if not longer. I like face-to-face interactions. I think it’s important that you can see so many things on people’s faces at the moment that you’re unable to see online. And that hurts student learning and student understanding. 

Hybrid learning creates universal learning for each type of learner on the college level but is difficult to follow for grade schools. Transportation to schools for the young solely depended on their parents or bus drivers.

“I’m concerned about the students K-12 more so than on the college level. You’re gonna have students who need more structured learning than others.  The double-edged sword of online is that it can give you so much freedom that if you’re not disciplined enough you won’t get what you need out of a course resulting in you falling behind and you won’t learn anything.” Robinson said.

Robinson says parents that work different schedules will have to juggle knowing which week a child has a face to face or virtual class.

“I think this is the first time people are realizing how much they can accomplish online. I may put an assignment out and my wording may be different from student understanding and that’s a part of communication anytime you can’t be face to face, I’ve learned you have to be surgical with your communication,” said Robinson. 

Robinson says the younger generations are our future and we must guide them through these times in a way that they can gather just enough or more than the generation before them.

The root of education is clear delivery and successful communication to make sure each child is gaining knowledge.

“People want appointment education but there also needs to be structure. For the fall I plan on teaching a hybrid course where students may be required to come in for two classes and then we will be online for 2 weeks. Alternating that will allow me to reach multiple students with different learning styles.” Robinson said.

Education is vital but helps matters more. This fall will force students to either research more and learn more on their own or continue to learn from teachers in person in a socially distant atmosphere.

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