Many Eastern New Mexico University students have seen their teachers update their online learning platform, Blackboard, during class, and watched the shift from “student view” to “teacher view.” With all of ENMU’s classes being shifted online for the remainder of the semester, the situation gives a whole new meaning to the term “teacher view.”
While the situation has been difficult and confusing at best, teachers at ENMU have dealt with it as they have with every other – with their students being the top priority.
For some, like Cindy Miller, a professor of Career and Technical Education, it’s not such a big transition, as she’s been teaching online classes for about 12 years—the last four of those at ENMU. She’s had to extend deadlines because of the extra week of spring break, but otherwise, it’s business as normal for most of her students. She suggested a Blackboard Collaborate room or Office Teams Meeting software to interact with students, particularly for advising questions. A Course Orientation Module on Blackboard helps ensure students know where all of their materials can be found for the duration of the semester.
“I think there can be a lot of good things with classes being online in that students are not so dependent on you as they would be in a face-to-face classroom and learn to figure things out on their own before contacting you,” said Miller.
Other instructors, however, are staring down different challenges for hands-on classes that aren’t typically offered online because of the nature of the material. When materials, technology, and machinery are required for class work, deciding how to format that knowledge into online information proves to be a bit of a head scratcher.
Professor of anthropology Robert Stokes has done some experimentation in finding what will work best for his classes, which include laboratory class work using digital scales and microscopes. He says shifting the analysis classwork to reading interpretation and Internet research and identification has worked well so far. Blackboard Discussion Boards are also useful for his students at varying levels – graduate students can write a lot to keep up with.
“I think it is challenging not seeing my students in person because it’s easier to interact and I can tell when a topic isn’t making sense to them through visual clues,” Stokes mentioned. “I’ve been surprised by how much more interactive some students are using the Discussion Board than they are in class, and so that is good.”
Greg Senn, professor of art, said jokingly that while the shop staying clean is a benefit to his classes being online, teaching his material is considerably more time consuming. Using tools, torches, machines and learning the techniques and processes of studio art is difficult to explain as opposed to demonstrating. His students have kept him busy answering questions via email, and creating videos of demonstrations isn’t the most efficient as every problem students encounter is different based on what they’re creating and what materials they’re using.
“Enrolling in a jewelry class and not being able to use the tools and equipment is very frustrating for them [the students],” Senn said. “One cannot learn how to use machines by watching videos, one needs the hands-on experience.”
Richard Schwartz, a professor of music, doesn’t have to deal with a lack of shop equipment, but he does face some difficulty in video quality and lag time trying to continue applied music lessons for his students from his home laptop. Although sometimes it’s easier to give lessons over the phone for audio quality, Schwartz says he keeps a similar schedule without the travel time, and he appreciates being able to make sure students are doing okay in video lessons. He feels this change is more difficult for his students because they’re not spending the time performing and helping one another as they normally would be.
“My students lose the comradery of being around each other and the sense of cooperative competition that comes with it,” Schwartz noted.
While this transition has been difficult for all ENMU staff and students, teachers are at their finest in checking in on their students and making sure they have everything they can equip them with to succeed during this unique time.