Faculty and staff at the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) have made adjustments to typical classroom learning to accommodate the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Professor Dr. Sandy Bushmich said preparations for course instruction were made across the college over the summer, with some changes coming at the last second.
“Nothing’s what we’re used to … I’ve been an instructor for over 30 years. I really enjoy my interaction with students,” Dr. Bushmich said. “I miss more interaction with students.”
Dr. Bushmich said she hears about students missing university interactions as well.
“My students … were very appreciative to have a class to come to to have something normal or relatively normal … and I appreciated it myself,” Dr. Bushmich said.
Dr. Amy Safran, a lecturer in the animal science department, said her responsibilities haven’t changed, but the way she teaches her classes has. When classes were made remote in March, she said the department did their best with videos as an alternative to in-person coursework.
Dr. Safran now comes to campus three days a week to teach hands-on livestock courses that she and the co-teacher decided they would only teach if they could be in-person.
“We vaccinate animals, put halters on them or do lots of things that you can’t really do virtually so it doesn’t really make any sense to try and do that,” Dr. Safran said.
Instructor and research associate for pathobiology and veterinary sciences Edan Tulman teaches anatomy and physiology of animals every fall. Tulman said lab work is a large part of his class, so deciding the modality of the course for the semester was a tough endeavor.
“Since the students were going to be back on campus we figured that this was just about a good excuse as any to try to have an in person component as long as it was compliant with the regulations put forth by the university in terms of spacing and everything like this also as long as the TAs and everyone felt comfortable in doing so,” Tulman said.
Lab time was split so more classes could be conducted with fewer students in the room and the course was moved to a new room in the chemistry building to comply with social distancing.
Tulman said he has also been accommodating whenever he can, providing material online for students that choose to work remotely.
“This class is a requirement for several degree programs, so we didn’t want to hold up people’s degrees programs with a strict online requirement so we essentially have also allowed students in the lab or in the class [to participate from home] if they feel like they need to be home for one reason or another,” Tulman said.
Roseanne Lipcius, who serves as director of the medical laboratory sciences program, said when classes were remote, video demonstrations were used to show students what they will be doing in the lab once they are able to return.
Lipcius also used streaming technology on occasion for students to have informal meetings within the small program (about 15-20 graduates per year) so students can get to know each other.
“The students did appreciate these since they were able to visualize the skills we were lecturing about,” Lipcius said.
Lipicius said most of the work in the program is hands-on, giving students vital experiences for the post-grad job world. For this reason, extra precautions are taken to allow students to get back in the lab. She said things are going better than she expected.
“Typically in a lab situation, students would have to wear a lab coat and gloves but now in addition, they are wearing a face mask as well as a face shield,” Lipicius said. “We try to keep students as far away from each other as possible,”
Seventh-semester medical laboratory science & allied health sciences double major Allison Jenks’ courses are being conducted in-person until Thanksgiving break. She said she has been studying and interacting with other students in her program in a safe way, and is relieved to have in-person classes and to be able to come to campus.
“There is definitely an added stress element with the threat of the pandemic and the worry that if one of us tests positive, all of us will have to quarantine. However, our professors have adapted wonderfully and are making sure that we receive the best lecture/laboratory time possible,” Jenks said. “Personally, I enjoy attending in-person class everyday because it makes me feel like I am having a somewhat ‘normal’ senior year.”
Jenks said due to the nature of her major, courses and labs have to be conducted in-person, giving her more access to her professors. Additionally, she said they have been available outside of the classroom.
“Our instructors are easily accessible via email, Webex or in person,” Jenks said. “For example, one of our classmates lives in the Oaks and was impacted by the two week mandatory quarantine. Our professor quickly adapted and started live-streaming the lectures so that she could still ‘attend’ the lecture. He additionally spent an extra hour with her virtually everyday to teach her lab material.”
Dr. Bushmich predicts the general format of courses during the spring semester will be the same as this semester.
“I think it will go a lot smoother because we have the valued experience from the semester and people have the kind of better understanding what is needed for each of them,” Dr. Bushmich said.
As for visiting the beloved animals of Horsebarn Hill, Dr. Bushmich said she doesn’t know when the public can come inside yet.
“All of our units had to be closed to the public because you definitely don’t want traffic from all over, we’re not encouraging visitors, even onto the campus,” Dr. Bushmich said. “We love to host people. We miss that too but it has to be safe for them and for us”.