By Mike McQuillen
Brockport Beat Social Media Manager
On Wednesday March 11, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all colleges, including SUNY Brockport, will switch to an online format for the remainder of the semester.
The main change that has occurred is that face to face classes will not take place anymore, but classes will only be available online. Students will now have to switch from seeing their professors and classmates in person and receiving the information in a normal class setting, to checking their email and logging on to Blackboard to access all class assignments, exams, attendance, etc. Some students actually choose the online class route when they register for college for a variety of reasons, but for students that originally signed up to attend a classroom and see a professor in person, this is a very unexpected change.
Professor Mary McCrank teaches four courses each semester at the college in the Journalism and Broadcasting department. McCrank has taught online courses in the past, but she says switching four syllabuses from in person to online in such a short period of time was very time consuming.
“I wanted to ensure I was providing a variety of assignments and also condensing some of the work, while also creating opportunities for students to earn participation points through discussion boards.” says McCrank.
Doing all assignments from home can be difficult for any student, in any major, at any school, but with Journalism students, a lot of their work consists of face to face interviews with sources that they will use for news stories, audio and video projects, etc. McCrank knew this, which is why she gave her students choices.
“I came up with essays in place of the stories as an option, so if students came up short with sources they could write an essay on a Pulitzer Prize-winning story, for example.”
Another professor in the Journalism and Broadcasting department at Brockport, Kim Young, also had to undergo some major changes with her classes.
“The main challenges I faced were adapting my reporting assignments to allow students to report in place (from where they live) and to report virtually. Additionally, transforming my media performance class from in-person to online was particularly challenging. Instead of students performing in studio spaces, they now perform in the comfort of their homes.”
College students are going to have issues and complaints with classes whether they are in person or online, so when asked what feedback they have gotten from students, knowing that they were forced into this online format without a choice, the reactions were surprisingly positive.
“I have had many students thank me for being flexible, creating alternative assignments, emailing weekly (or more often!) reminders, extending deadlines when they have fallen behind due to stress or a heavy workload, etc,” says Professor McCrank.
“Students are generally satisfied with the courses and the online format, but what they tell me is that they miss the interaction with me and with their peers.” Professor Young writes.
When asked how student’s grades were being affected, whether they were going down or up from being in person to online, McCrank and Young both expressed that the majority of their students are doing well. However, according to McCrank, it is difficult to not be able to see students regularly to keep them on track.
“It’s frustrating because I cannot force anyone to do the work. I remain hopeful everyone will pass, but I am a little worried that a few students may not do the work.”
At the end of the day, students who work hard are going to work hard no matter the format, that’s why Professor Young ended the interview with this statement.
“I find that the students who excel in face to face classes also excel in the online environment, but I believe students who are struggling in face to face classes tend to do more poorly online.”
Luckily, for faculty having a difficult time switching all of their courses to online, there are resources available to get help and advice. One of these resources is the The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). The main goal of CELT is to empower faculty and staff to create high-quality learning experiences for students, work productively in their field, and provide meaningful service to the college community. According to CELT’s Interim Director, Robert Baker, Brockport professors have been utilizing their services.
“They have provided them with one-on-one support with strategies for modifying curriculum and responding to students’ needs.” says Baker.
Baker says that faculty had to lower their expectations both for themselves and the students, and for some of them, this was difficult, but the faculty’s main concern was how their students would handle the switch.
“Many, many faculty expressed their sadness that so many students struggled with challenges connected to studying at home, financial setbacks, access to technology, etc. Many faculty said they saw how incredibly difficult this was for our students.” says Baker.
College professors all around the country are going through so many changes right now with everything happening in the world. Brockport is grateful to have such understanding and compassionate professors like McCrank and Young that students can count on to educate no matter the circumstance, and organizations like CELT to be there when professors need assistance.