Nearly every educational facility in America will be undergoing changes for for the fall term to accommodate guidelines laid out due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the agenda are mask mandates, social distancing guidelines, and several other quality-of-life protocols.
Northeastern State University professors will be struggling with their own challenges when it comes to how they deliver their material. They will have to offer more online learning opportunities for students, as well as ensure the safety of those in their own classrooms. For several professors, the students' health, and their own, are top priority.
“Two of my biggest concerns for this semester are to maintain the health of my students and also maintain my own personal health,” said Dr. David Scott, NSU professor of communication and media studies. “These are my most immediate concerns. Obviously, we want to maintain a high level of learning, but first and foremost is to maintain the health of all the stakeholders at NSU, whether it be faculty, staff, student or any other employee.”
Scott commends NSU’s efforts thus far in offering a safe, yet fair, learning environment for students.
"NSU is attempting to offer a parallel distance/virtual version for all course offerings,” said Scott. “This illustrates how NSU is doing its best to accommodate the concerns and safety priorities of its students and still provide the traditional college experience for others. These will have all of the physical safeguards in place: mandatory masks, instructors lecturing behind plexiglass shields, and maximizing physical-distance seating in classroom assignments.”
This will change how professors in hands-on courses instruct their classes. Many laboratory professors work in close proximity to students to teach them how to safely and properly use their equipment.
“My challenge is performing labs,” said Dr. Sung-Kun Kim, NSU professor of chemistry. “I am going to teach chemistry labs and expect close conversations between students and myself. I hope we strictly follow the CDC guide to avoid any virus spread.”
Other courses, such as choral music, pose unique dilemmas. Choir classes tend to have a number of people singing in a close environment. Dr. Jeffery Wall, NSU associate professor of music, said he and his students will have to adapt.
“Adapting on the fly to the ever-changing situation is probably the most challenging thing,” said Wall. "In the arts, we are good at adapting, but it is stressful. I want to offer the quality education that students expect, while mitigating risks as best I can under existing guidelines."
Dr. Daniel Savage, NSU professor of political science, said he and his fellow faculty members will have to juggle both students in face-to-face courses and students online, sometimes simultaneously.
“I am the chair of an academic department, and many of my faculty have face-to-face courses in which some students will be joining them through Zoom,” said Savage. “Trying to teach to those two audiences simultaneously is bound to be challenging. For example, many instructors like to move around and write on the board, but if they have to stay in front of the computers, they will have to drastically change their teaching style. Because we have never done it this way before, it’s hard to anticipate everything that could go wrong.”