Students and professors adjust to online classes

Seniors’ thesis projects have changed to adapt to the shift to online classes.

A classroom on the 11th floor of Anderson Hall sits empty on March 16. CLAUDIA SALVATO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Eleni Anni, a biology professor, had never taught an online class before last Monday. She felt far away from the class during her first online session via Zoom, she said.

“I was anxious basically because I have not used excessively zoom,” Anni said. “Feels awkward I guess for both myself and the students but I hope it will improve as time goes on.” 

Following the suspension of in-person classes starting March 16, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, all in-person instruction moved online, The Temple News reported.

What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus which was first discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It causes respiratory illnesses. The disease has since spread to dozens of countries, and on March 11, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of coronavirus a pandemic.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 include a high fever, cough and shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that symptoms can be mild or severe and appear 2-14 days after being exposed to the disease.

Some professors said that they could have used more time to prepare for moving instruction online. 

“I was teaching on Friday morning, and I had office hours Friday afternoon so I had very little time to adjust,” Anni said. “So I wish we had a break in between before moving into the online format, but I understand that Temple did not have advance notice.”

Jean Boyer, a teaching and learning professor, spent the weekend moving her course material online, she said.

“I was teaching right up until Friday at 3 in the afternoon,” Boyer said. “So we didn’t have a lot of lead time to prep for this.”

David Brown, a public relations professor who teaches capstone courses and is an advisor to David Boardman, the dean of Lew Klein College of Media and Communication, would have liked the university’s decision to suspend in-person teaching to come quicker than it did, but he knows that it is his responsibility to prepare to move the course online as an instructor, he said.

What to do if you are sick?
Stay home, avoid public areas and avoid public transportation if you feel sick. You should isolate yourself from people as much as possible and limit contact with pets and animals. You should call your doctor and schedule an apointment before visiting a doctor’s office, urgent care, etc. You or your doctor should alert a health department of your illness.
If you are sick, you should wear a facemask around other people. Cover your coughs and sneezes and wash your hands often for 20 seconds with soap and water.

“Regardless of what the university was going to do, as a faculty member and as a member of the administration I had to make sure that I could make some plans,” he said. “If you were on the job your work doesn’t stop simply because your circumstances change.”

Brown has had to transition the capstone courses he is teaching online. One of them is a course for a public relations competition, the Bateman Competition, in which students from different colleges compete by launching a campaign for a client, according to its website.

The Bateman Competition class was structured around their campaign to encourage people to fill out the census on Census Action Day, March 12, when the city announced that they advise against participating in large gatherings, Brown said. However, the night before Census Action Day, Temple announced that in-person learning would move online.  All events were canceled for Census Action Day, Brown added.

What can you do prevent the spread of COVID-19?
The virus is mainly spread from person to person. This includes between people have been within six feet of each other or through respiratory droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes. To limit the spread, avoid close contact with people who are sick. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Wash your hands often with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 perecent alcohol. If you cough or sneeze, wash your hands immediately after.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Clean high-touch surfaces, like tabletops, doorknobs, toilets, keyboards and tablets. Use a household cleaner to disinfect the surfaces.

“So we went completely virtual,” Brown said. “We continued to do outreach to folks who connected with us through the website and we actually got 100 percent participation in terms of people actually going to the website and filling out the census online so it actually worked out to, to our advantage.”

Jazmyne Williams, a senior public relations major who is in the class, said that she was concerned about the transition to online because it changed how the class members worked on the campaign. The campaign had focused on community action and coming together in-person since the beginning of the semester but due to the move to online learning on Census Action Day, the students emailed and messaged people asking them to fill out the census instead of doing the events they had planned.

“With moving the class online, I guess our biggest thing is it’s a very, very heavily collaborative class,” Williams said. “Especially with the initial chaos of everything, like the not knowing and then now we just can’t do what we need to do together. It was kind of shocking, everyone’s a little still in awe of it all I think.”

However, Williams said that it is good they have the option to move the class online. 

Erin Steen, a senior glass major, said she is unsure how her senior thesis art exhibition will happen. During the first zoom class for her senior seminar, Steen said that the class discussed continuing their artwork outside of the studio.

“Right now we’re kind of focusing on how we’re gonna get back into our artwork since we aren’t able to access the studio anymore,” Steen said. “We’re trying to find different ways of navigating that.”

At home, Steen has been working on drawing pictures of herself working the studio as a way to get back into doing artwork, she said.  

Nya Ridley, a senior graphic design major, said students in her thesis class have had to change their thesis projects when classes moved online.

“It was super nuts because a lot of people have exhibitions and with large scale physical projects for their thesis but because all of that is shut down, people have had to pivot and adapt their projects to the online,” Ridley said.

Seth Wampole, a junior media studies production major, is unsure how he will present a final project for his class now that it is online.

“Our final project was supposed to be a group presentation and I’m not sure exactly like how that’s going to translate to online if you can still do that. We obviously can’t really meet in person to do it so that’s going to be a little more difficult,” Wampole said.

Wampole said he realized there are many things that don’t easily switch from in-person to online, like the closure of the TECH Center and the lack of access to technology on campus.     

Wampole’s internship for credit has also changed amid the COVID-19 outbreak, he said. Because he can no longer go into the office to use their editing program, Wampole can’t do as many tasks as he did when he worked in-person.

“I don’t have Final Cut and even before campus closed no one on campus uses Final Cut so I’m not able to edit videos for them, which is what I’m normally doing so it’s the biggest challenge with interning,” Wampole said.

Jade Khedoo, a junior English major, said her in-person class which is now moved online is different from any other online class she’s taken.

“These ones now with all this zoom nonsense are very different,” Khedoo said. “We’re spending a lot more time on technical problems that professors don’t really understand.”

On the other hand, Casey Shaw, a junior political science major, said that his professors did not have problems with technology.

“I liked the easiness of it and I feel like the professor’s didn’t have as much trouble with it as I thought they would,” Shaw said. 

Shaw said that there was not a lot of participation among students during his online classes.

“Just  sitting in my own house seeing everybody rather than in a classroom, I feel like it was a lot more awkward to have a real conversation with the class,” Shaw said.  “So it was a lot more of just professors talking at us with the PowerPoint and no one else really saying anything.”

One of Shaw’s professors is giving all students an A as their grade for the course because the class had not met in two weeks.

“He was out a lot while school was still in too before we left, we didn’t see him for like two weeks,” Shaw said. “He also had an infant, which I guess he’s the primary caretaker of.”

While Shaw’s professor is giving students credit without grading papers, the rest of the university is not.  Over 4,415 Temple students signed a petition to receive pass/fail grades for the semester. The students who started the petition wrote that they are concerned that the quick switch to online learning can be detrimental to both faculty’s teaching and students’ academic performance.

“The student body believes it is crucial to allow the option of Credit/No-Credit classes to alleviate the stress on the well-being of students and faculty members during this unprecedented time,” the petition states.

University of Pennsylvania informed students that they may opt for courses to be graded pass/fail after more than 3,400 students signed a petition which asked the university to grade courses with a pass/fail grading system for the semester, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.

Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, wrote in an email to The Temple News that this grading system is under consideration.

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