Professors and instructors eagerly await the start of in-person instruction
Professor Paul Friedland, history, commutes seven to eight hours a week from his home in Maine to teach in Ithaca. Virtual teaching makes his mornings easier, but he says remote teaching just isn’t the same as face-to-face learning.
“[Teaching] just doesn’t work as well virtually as it does in person,” Friedland said. He suggested that, compared to in-person teaching, it is more difficult to energize students with virtual teaching. It is harder to energize students with virtual teaching.
The University has decided to make teaching virtual for the first two weeks after the campus was closed following a significant increase in COVID-19 cases on campus. The administration anticipated an increase in cases as students returned from winter vacation and hoped to mitigate health risks with this method.
The University is preparing to to return to to in-person instruction on Monday, February 7. In all departments, faculty are particularly expressing a desire to return to in-person teaching.
Friedland said that for many professors in humanities departments, the lack of human interaction makes the experience “less than optimal.” He expressed his anticipation of engaging students in physical discussions and seminars, and he hopes the University can return to in-person teaching as soon as possible.
Professor Stephen Lee, a chemist, said he was eager to teach in person and found it safer to be on campus than to have a remote semester.
“I think everyone will be safer here [because] we have the resources; if the percentage [of positive cases] gets higher, we will know,” Lee said.
Despite the assurance given to parents, students and faculty of the return to in-person instruction in a January 6 emailmany teachers continue, as Lee put it, to “cross their fingers” that the transition will be smooth.
As a visiting professor at Cornell, Mathematics Professor James Belk has faced challenges adapting to distance learning, as many of his teaching methods are not possible online.
In an email to The Sun, Belk expressed his gratitude for the decision to hold virtual teaching.
“I have a four-year-old son who isn’t old enough to be vaccinated, so I’m really grateful [of the in-person modality],” he said.
Senior Lecturer Justin St. Juliana, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was largely happy with the decision to go virtual.
St. Juliana is a lecturer in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 1610: Introductory Biology: Ecology and the Environment, and he currently teaches his course asynchronously. Discussion sections are taught over Zoom to maintain real-time learning and interactive teaching.
Having experienced several semesters of virtual teaching, St. Juliana was able to leverage the skills he developed previously. From adapting teaching materials to maintaining student interactions on Zoom, St. Juliana felt prepared for the two weeks.
St. Juliana’s opinion on the integration of virtual learning at the University was also positive.
“I think it was an appropriate strategy,” St. Juliana said. “I think it was a pretty smooth process.”
Students also shared mixed reactions to the first two weeks of virtual teaching, with some feeling uninterested as they took many high school classes virtually, and many said they looked forward to a return to teaching in person on February 7.
Combined with the University’s recent decision to move to the green alert level, many instructors also expressed confidence that the coming months will provide opportunities to balance mental health and social interaction with a return to learning. in person.
“We are certainly prepared and excited to return to the classroom,” St. Juliana said. “I’m optimistic.”