Professors and students adapt to university life online


As colleges began to evacuate campuses, University of Iowa professor Mike Colbert found himself driving across the state to deliver a laptop from the campus business analysis lab to the home. rural area of ​​a student.

Delivering fortune to provide a student with a laptop capable of running a specific type of financial software is just one of the many ways UI faculty and students have adapted to transform a campus. physics at an online university during spring break.

“Right now we’re kind of all on the bridge,” said Colbert, associate professor of practice.

Across Iowa, students are chatting with classmates about Zoom and trying to replicate science labs online. The transition to going live began Monday and is expected to last, at a minimum, until mid-summer.

UI President Bruce Harreld this week told the Iowa board of directors that the transition has been effective, in part thanks to the university’s existing infrastructure for online education.

“[Students’] The educational experience at the University of Iowa does not suffer at all from our going 100% online, ”Harreld told Regents.

Ceramics without ceramic workshop

For some students, however, there are aspects of their in-person classes that simply cannot be moved online. When in-person classes were canceled, Janiece Maddox, a junior studying ceramics and English at UI, went from carving a 100-pound sink to learning glaze chemistry from a distance. She thinks her professors and the heads of the ceramics department are doing their best given the circumstances, but the online courses are “unorthodox” in her field of study.

With the campus largely closed, Janiece Maddox, a junior at the University of Iowa, set up her own makeshift ceramic studio in her family's home.

“I was literally [at the campus ceramics studio] more than I was in my own apartment, ”she said. “It’s like a second home for a lot of us. More than a classroom, it is a community.

The sculpting process takes place in stages over the weeks. With so many intense stages along the way, Maddox says the sculpture is “personal”. She says she “was a mess” when she found out that she wouldn’t be able to complete the project she spent so much of her semester working on, but more than herself she is discouraged for his fellow ceramicists who graduate in May and have had to cancel or delay their climactic shows.

Janiece Maddox rests in a sculpture lab on the University of Iowa campus.  Maddox estimates that she spent more time in the Visual Arts Building on campus than in her apartment before the university switched to 100% online classes.  She says it was not uncommon for her to work long hours in the lab and often volunteered as a lab monitor on Friday nights.

Maddox left campus with clay to continue her homework, and unlike other classmates, maybe she could build a makeshift oven in her backyard. But working from home is not the same as working in the studio. On the one hand, he will miss the constant feedback that comes from working in a space with classmates and more experienced instructors.

“If anything see everyone [on Zoom] makes me even sadder, ”she said.

Drama lessons on Zoom

Teaching through Zoom has obvious limitations when it comes to teaching a theater class spatial awareness and interaction with other performers in a space, says Paul Kalina, UI Theater Manager.

It is difficult to train to be present with a partner on stage in an age of isolation.

But Kalina is excited about the transition and plans to conduct a 3-week online unit when classes resume on campus. While Zoom makes it difficult to teach some skills, it works well for others. When students have only one box on a screen to communicate, it hones some fundamental acting skills.

“If you don’t do a good deed, the person won’t know how to react,” he explains.

The old Capitol building is reflected in the windows of Schaeffer Hall, Monday, March 30, 2020, on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City, Iowa.

Kalina says the transition to the Internet is forcing him and other teachers to re-evaluate the way they teach for the better. Logistically, he says he needs to listen and speak more effectively to teach on Zoom. More existentially, Kalina said the closure of theaters across the country and the increase in streaming services are making professors think about the types of acting careers they help prepare students for.

“I think we all scramble and scramble for the rest of the semester,” Kalina said. “Because you are constantly learning what works.”

A “Herculean” effort, but a relatively smooth transition

Transferring undergraduate courses online has been a relatively seamless process at Tippie College of Business, says Amy Kristof-Brown, Acting Dean.

There have been a few technical issues and a few “zoom bombs,” or instances where people outside of a classroom have shown up in an open zoom meeting to insert obscenities. But Kristof-Brown said professors seem extremely surprised at how effectively they’ve been able to switch to online classes.

About 40 professors volunteered to mentor other professors through the transition and to mentor other professors about the online transition. Professors are encouraged to make lectures available during student leisure, rather than hosting live lectures.

Colbert said the idea is to make classes accessible, especially for students who may have added stress to their lives, such as caring for family members.

“We don’t know what the students are going through,” Colbert said. “So we try to go as smoothly as possible with them and give them the basic knowledge.”

It took a “Herculean” effort, but Angela Cordle, an education services specialist, says the biology department has brought all of the student labs online. Cordle says the department is doing their best to replicate the experience of being in a lab through PowerPoint presentations, pictures, and videos.

A week later, Cordle says, “So far so good” except for a few technical issues which have been resolved.

“Obviously, the hands-on lab experience is not going to happen, so we focus, for the most part, on the concepts,” she said.

The transition to the Internet has seen professors at the School of Art and Art History collaborating and sharing ideas with colleagues across the country, said Dorothy Johnson, acting principal.

Creative ideas came out of those discussions, Johnson said. Yet many teachers are using online learning as a way to replicate the face-to-face learning of four weeks ago.

“I think our expectation and our wish is that we go back to the program before,” Johnson said.


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