After spending months adapting to remote teaching while Covid-19 forced many classes to be held online, many UM faculty say they are looking forward to going back to classrooms filled with students instead of chatrooms filled with black boxes.
“Over the past year, I have learned a lot about new technologies that were necessary for distance learning, but that I can foresee will be helpful… even after we fully return to in-class teaching,” Michael Herrington, Intensive English Program Instructor, said.
Deborah Hall, an instructor at the School of Journalism, interrupted her class to immediately share the news that the University would return to a fully in-person experience in the fall.
“When you get right down to it, [students] are the reason we teach,” Hall said. “And our interaction with them is what makes it click for those of us who are teaching.”
Hall says that she has learned a great deal through online teaching about new ways to engage students in the classroom. She hopes both faculty and students will be able to bring the skills they gained through remote learning with them in the fall “and maybe even a deeper compassion and empathy than we have before that I hope to see us continue.”
Many professors have now gotten used to using Zoom as a tool to not only teach a class but to record their lectures and provide them to students who might struggle with fast-paced lectures or a bad internet connection.
Faculty are also thinking about what internet applications they can continue to use in the classroom with students.
William Joseph Sumrall, a professor of Elementary Education, said that Google Sheets can be an extremely useful tool, even in a face-to-face classroom.
“If you give students an assignment where they are looking up ‘best websites for teaching something in science,’ you could actually compile a huge list, or the students can, and then everybody can access it through Google Sheets,” Sumrall said.
Sumrall also spoke about an application called “Voki,” which is an animated figure that students can create and use for an animated presentation tool, student assignments, and as a virtually viewed discussion forum according to its website.
“I can see that as being a really good thing to do in the face-to-face class with students,” Sumrall said.
While most faculty are looking forward to the switch back to in-person classes, there is still an uneasy feeling about the idea of having all those people in the same room again.
“I think some of us will feel nervous even though we’ll be vaccinated (we’d better be vaccinated). We’ve been conditioned to be fearful of gathering, and it may take a while before we can relax and feel comfortable inside classrooms,” English Professor Vivian Hobbs said.
Most students were also eager to return to in-person classes. According to the Covid-19 response survey conducted by the University of Mississippi, 81% of students who responded found remote learning hindered their motivation to engage with their classes.
“Kind of bummed that I have to wake up more than three seconds before class now, but I learn a lot better with face-to-face instruction,” Damien Harbin, a junior criminal justice major, said.
Oren Smith, a first-year forensic chemistry major, said that remote learning has taught him better time management.
“Most of it at first was on your own and not on a strict schedule that you had to follow, you had to make one on your own,” Smith said. “And that’s a skill I’ll be taking back with me, as it will help me in the long run.”
For some, going back to the classroom doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Zoom chats and remote instruction.
“I see no reason why instructors couldn’t set up a Zoom call for students who can’t make it to class,” Harbin said. “As much as I hate to say it, zoom kind of destroys sick absences.”