UW-Eau Claire faculty ready to remain online

Some professors anticipate online classes for fall semester

Zane Klavina

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Hoffman said UW system plans to make the determination by mid-July of whether fall semester classes will be online or face-to-face.

As UW-Eau Claire students register for fall semester courses, some professors are already preparing to switch their classes to an online format, deeming it possible that school will remain online in the fall.

Mary Hoffman, director of academic planning and assessment, said faculty has identified that the transition this semester has been challenging, but rewarding.

 “The UW System will make the determination of whether classes will be online or face-to-face in the fall,” Hoffman said. “They will make that decision mid-July, so UW-Eau Claire will wait on that.”

 Hoffman said the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning on campus has done an amazing job getting resources out to faculty to help them in the transition to online instruction this semester.

 “At this point, few departments have decided to put their classes online in the fall,” Hoffman said. “Those who have done so, are anticipating uncertainty or have figured out that some things work very well online and they want to continue to provide that.”

 Lucy Johnson, assistant professor of the English department, said she considers herself fairly fortunate in this scenario because she was already teaching one online class.

 “That class was actually really helpful for me in terms of planning my other two courses that I transitioned online,” Johnson said. “I was fortunate to get student feedback last semester about what helped them in an online format.”

Hoffman said it is interesting how little the general public knows about remote learning and what tools are available.

 Johnson said planning for the possibility of remaining online for the fall semester is very important. If online instruction does continue, faculty can be confident in offering solid courses where students get what they would in a face-to-face classroom, she said.

 “We also need to think about what additional online instruction resources we can offer professors,” Johnson said. “If we find out we’re online in the fall, they can feel supported to do that well.”

 Kristine Knutson, associate professor of the communication and journalism department, said there are many elements of their jobs that are not visible to students.

 “In our department, for example, we were in the middle of hiring people,” Knutson said. “There are a lot of other tasks we have to accomplish other than teaching our classes.”

 Johnson said she was doing tutorial training on online class format with faculty because many of them had never utilized some of the resources that UW-Eau Claire already provides. 

“As a digital literacy specialist in the English department, one of my roles is how to help other professors in a way that is going to best serve students,” Johnson said. 

Knutson said the decision towards what will happen with learning in the fall has not been taken lightly. The Communication and Journalism department has already decided to offer some of their classes online for the fall to alleviate anxiety for some students, she said.

“I have shifted one of my classes online,” Knutson said. “I wanted to make sure students have some options ahead of time, in case they don’t feel comfortable being back on campus.”

Knutson said the three-week period was not enough to shift her class content online this semester, but she has gotten positive feedback from her students. She said students have been appreciative of the effort that professors have put into making this semester happen.

Johnson also said she found that her students are grateful for everyone’s flexibility during this time.

“More than anything, instructors want to help students succeed,” Johnson said. “We have really tried to meet them halfway and be there for them so that they can finish up this semester.”

Avery Burns, a third-year choral music education student, said her professors have been understanding and have done a great job of adapting things to an online format.

“Most of my professors have been posting pre-recorded lectures ahead of time,” Burns said. “Now it is more lecture-based than it was before.”

Regarding the fall semester, Burns said there are a lot of assignments students can do online, but choir practice is not one of them.

“Both music and education are entirely experiential fields. The performance aspect and sharing that experience is impossible to achieve online,” Burns said. “A choir, band or an orchestra can’t exist unless there’s more than one person present.”

Hoffman said the COVID-19 pandemic is not what anyone had anticipated and has disrupted experiences across all majors. She is hopeful that students will learn a lot about resilience and flexibility during this time.

Klavina can be reached at [email protected].