UConn professors split on course modality choices for the spring semester

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University of Connecticut professors have a variety of ideas and choices for how they plan to tackle teaching this spring semester. 

Dr. Ronald Schurin, a political science professor who will be teaching POLS 2607: American Political Parties this spring has not made a final decision on modality.  

Dr. Ronald Schurin, a political science professor who will be teaching POLS 2607: American Political Parties this spring has not made a final decision on modality, despite his desire to teach in person and interact with students. Photo of Professor Ronald Schurin in his office at Oak Hall, courtesy of the UConn Political Science WordPress site.

“My preference is to teach the course in person because I like the interaction that I get with students,” Dr. Schurin said. “It’s easier for me to put things up on the board as I think of them, and it creates an opportunity for students to interact with one another in discussion.”  

Dr. Schurin, who already taught a course during the pandemic this fall, said teaching online is a learning experience for everyone and no matter the health climate come spring, he plans to make it work.  

“We are all just getting used to things. I will not be happy if this becomes the new normal after we have a vaccine,” Dr. Schurin said. “I don’t want it to become a place where most students take classes online. It changes the culture of the university.” 

Dr. Carrie Eaton of the School of Nursing will be teaching NURS 3120: Patient Centered Health Assessment Across the Lifespan via synchronous distance learning for the spring semester. For the lab portion, she is currently brainstorming with the faculty in the School of Nursing Simulation Center to find creative solutions for remote lab sessions.  

“Adaptability, flexibility and a rise to the challenge attitude are inherent in most nurses,” Dr. Eaton said.  

Like Dr. Schurin, Dr. Eaton values face-to-face interaction and was worried her “passion for nursing and teaching would be hidden behind my mask.” 

But, she provided an anecdote about falsely arriving pregnant for the first maternal-child nursing class in September, proving that there are still many ways to engage students and keep an authentic teaching style despite the modality. 

“Students who knew me from previous classes were skeptical, but those who didn’t were shocked when I revealed a fake pregnancy belly,” Dr. Eaton said.  

“Students who knew me from previous classes were skeptical, but those who didn’t were shocked when I revealed a fake pregnancy belly,”

Dr. Carrie Eaton, UConn School of Nursing

Alexander Woodward, a professor of scenic design in the department of dramatic arts, will be teaching DRAM 5301 Scenic Design: Single Unit as well as 5397 Special Topics in Scene Design, the former being hybrid and the latter being fully online.  

The structure of these classes have changed, but Woodward has been working on new ways to structure his courses, such as utilizing Zoom and how to “go around the room” virtually without talking over others.  

“I think we have all thought more about presenting work in a way that can’t be clarified as easily in person: IE labels on drawings or titles on images etc. so that as we share in a virtual space we can all be ‘on the same page,’” Woodward said.  

Julie Foh, a voice and speech professor also in the department of dramatic arts, has a hard task of teaching classes with a focus on elements of vocal production, resonance, articulation and text work.  

“There is a lot of research out there about how speaking and singing increase the spread of aerosols in the air,” Foh said. “Remote learning will allow our students to breathe and use their voices in expansive ways without worrying about those aerosols, and it will allow them to have full range of motion in their articulators without the obstacle of a mask.” 

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