Written by Rhiana Bilderaya
Virtually no sector, public or private, has been untouched by the novel COVID-19 pandemic. FRCC Westminster and higher education institutions throughout the country are no exception. Many closed in March for the remainder of spring semester when it became clear that the virus was spreading. Faculty at FRCC Westminster are adjusting to real time remote learning, one of the new learning options for students.
“Real-time remote” is the term for classes that can be taught virtually. It means that students have an assigned class time, they log onto Zoom for their meeting time, and they submit their work online via Desire to Learn. Attendance and participation are expected. This option is less expensive than online learning and meant to mimic traditional in person classes.
Tamara Box, who teaches computer science classes at FRCC Westminster, said she normally teaches a mix of in person and online classes each semester.
“D2L is an excellent platform for setting up remote learning and that makes the course content and infrastructure very easy,” Box said. “However, despite all of these advantages, I still prefer to have some face time with students every week. It is difficult to cater virtual sessions to meet everyone’s schedules.”
Because her class is computer-based, she is teaching remotely this semester. The loss of in-person interaction has come with some challenges for her and her students. Despite this, she has some tips for success.
“To be successful as a remote student or teacher, you have to put in the effort to connect,” Box said. “Sure, you can get through the whole class barely speaking with anyone, but you’ll have such a richer experience if you try to engage with students and the instructor. Go to the virtual office hours, IM the instructor with questions, reach out to your peers in discussions and help each other!”
Another computer science professor, Leslie Hurr, is enjoying teaching remotely, despite being worried about the loss of facetime turning students off of college classes.
“I am nervous I’m going to lose students [who are] intimidated by the remote fashion,” Hurr said. “I try to tell my students, online and remote, that I’m available for them. I’ll do a Zoom session or stay after class.”
Overall, she has a very positive outlook about COVID-19 and its effects on both her personally and at FRCC Westminster. She talked at length about President Andy Dorsey’s weekly town halls and the extensive support for faculty.
“FRCC has advanced so much because of COVID,” Hurr said. “Andy Dorsey and so many people have joined together as a unified group to do as much as they possibly can to provide training and resources. Andy never used to have town halls, and now he has two a week.”
Leslie stated that she may even want to teach virtually long-term. Prior to COVID-19, she had a long commute. Now, she just walks downstairs to her office. Between the increased flexibility and support for staff, her outlook is bright.
“We need to rise above and work as a team, all of us together,” Hurr said. “Andy Dorsey sees this as another opportunity for us to offer a different mode [of learning] for those that end up liking it. I do think that COVID has advanced everyone further technologically.”