The first few weeks of school at the University of Georgia were full of short lunch lines at Bolton Dining Commons, vacant classrooms and half-empty buses — all signs of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professors in every department have worked with the university to develop a curriculum that adheres to social distancing guidelines while delivering effective instruction. The Red & Black reached out to a handful of instructors from different departments to get their opinion on the new instruction implemented for the fall 2020 semester.
Thus far, students have been very diligent in regards to wearing mandated face coverings and adhering to social distancing guidelines, said Alexander Pfeuffer, an assistant professor of advertising and public relations..
“The biggest challenge has been designing the course to accommodate a substantial number of students who would suddenly find themselves unable to attend courses to quarantine or self-isolate and provide them with the same meaningful course experience,” Pfeuffer said.
Pfeuffer has employed a hybrid format that includes weekly online lectures and face-to-face meetings with a condensed group of students for his advertising and communication management courses. During the first week, Pfeuffer met with students over Zoom for an initial course introduction to outline expectations, explain the different safety measures and clarify the rotation of attendance.
Other challenges regarding the hybrid instructional format are technology issues and ensuring that students are following the university’s code of conduct, according to Jeffry Netter, head of UGA’s department of finance. Within his department, Netter also implemented a hybrid approach that allows students to meet for in-person instruction or access the material over Zoom and through eLearning Commons.
Alice Kinman, a senior lecturer in the department of economics, is content with the technology provided by the Terry College of Business.
“The Terry [Office of Information Technology] has done an outstanding job installing the hardware and software and providing the tech support to pull off this grand experiment,” she said.
Kinman teaches her senior economics thesis writing course through Zoom, allowing students to communicate within smaller breakout sessions. Students have the option to attend a socially distanced face-to-face class, and students will often go outside during the session to be socially distanced and discuss their projects without the use of masks, Kinman said.
“What I would like to have happened differently is more autonomy given to faculty on how to deliver their course content,” Kinman said. “My class, in particular, works better on Zoom than in a socially-distanced classroom. I’m sure this is true for many other classes for which collaboration among students is a feature of the learning process.”
Jeff Hepinstall-Cymerman teaches landscape ecology for freshmen and undergraduates, as well as a graduate-only course in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Cymerman’s classes are a combination of face-to-face and Zoom instruction.
Cymerman’s graduate-only class curriculum has moved fully online due to the rise of COVID-19 cases within the class. He said the class uses computers extensively, so it is actually easier to teach online than in a socially distanced computer lab while wearing masks.
“I know that being an effective teacher this fall is proving to take a lot more time than a normal semester, but all my faculty colleagues have been working very hard to deliver the quality instruction our students deserve in these challenging times,” Cyberman said.
Denise Lewis’ class within the department of human development and family science has adopted a hybrid or hyflex model, with the class participating in both a remote and face-to-face format.
“The hybrid/hyflex model means we all rely heavily on various forms of technology, so when whatever technology we hope to use doesn’t work, students can become frustrated,” Lewis said. “I know our technology teams are working to get the various platforms up and running smoothly.”
To reduce stress among her students, Lewis has integrated lectures and quizzes within every module of instruction, allowing students to easily access material at their own pace.
“If a student falls behind, my hope is that this sort of flexibility will allow them to get back on track,” Lewis said. I think this is especially important for students who encounter health problems along the way.”
Jason Aryeh, a lecturer in dance, is a new faculty member at UGA as well as a new member of the Athens community.
“My goal as a dance movement educator, choreographer and research scholar is to strive each day to live out loud through this pandemic, entering the lives of people who are different from me to inspire them with my passion for what I do,” Aryeh said. “My first week of classes has been great. I have taught myself through research while constantly learning each day to be creative in maintaining an effective and impactful teaching skill for all my classes.”
Aryeh’s dance technique class is taught in a face-to-face instructional format attended by a small number of students in a larger dance studio. His other higher-enrollment courses adapted to a mixture of face-to-face instruction and completion of online assignments.
“We are all heartbroken with the sadden current pandemic attack, but my question is- how can we take our broken hearts and make it into art?” Aryeh said