San Diego State University College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts

PSFA Faculty Take on Move to Virtual Learning 

Faculty share their experiences and insights transitioning to online classes. 

PSFA Faculty Take on Move to Virtual Learning 

by Sofia Bert

April 13, 2020

April 13, 2020

Within just a few days, all of SDSU had to adjust to the new reality of virtual learning due to the threat of COVID-19.

For faculty, that meant that classrooms, including labs, had to be moved quickly to a completely different platform. PSFA is resilient. Here are some of the ways our faculty are rolling with the changes:

From Learning to Laughter

Professor Emeritus in the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Gene Lamke, who has taught at SDSU for 51 years, was familiar with Zoom but is still learning new ways to work with it to engage with his students.

“I am learning though, that we can still laugh together, still be real to one another, and still be engaging online. I like having them see me and see that I am not just a voice but an actual person,” said Lamke.

“The thing that teaching on Zoom has done for me is to see students who are in attendance by name for each class I teach. It has also shown me that I can teach interactively online and that there are numerous tools that can aid me in doing so! I am still learning new ways to engage my students with Zoom and I hope to master them all by the end of this semester.”

Work-Life Balance

Professor D.J. Hopkins in the School of Theatre, Television, and Film has had to learn how to shift all his classes online as well as figure out the balance for his family and getting used to the new normal.

“It’s been bumpy. For one thing, like many people, I’ve been doing multiple simultaneous transitions over the last couple weeks: quickly moving to online teaching, starting homeschooling my children, and learning to live a “hunker down” life during this pandemic,” said Hopkins.

“The point is to ensure consistently high-quality online instruction for SDSU students. Our current situation is a mass experiment in spontaneous digital education. We had about a week and a half. A huge effort was made to support faculty making this transition, but most of that support was ad hoc: ‘I can give you a quick tutorial on that,’ and ‘Here’s a video if you want to do this.’ I am deeply grateful to all the colleagues who offered such advice because I needed it — and still do!”

Placing Students as a Top Priority

Dr. Nathian Shae Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the School of Journalism and Media Studies and Core Faculty - Area of Excellence “Digital Humanities & Global Diversity.” Rodriguez is also Affiliated Faculty in both LGBTQ Studies and Latin American Studies.

“Students sometimes don’t have access to the internet, fast internet or smart devices,” said Rodriguez. “So if you’re still able to deliver a quality course with preparation and intent, you have to think about the best ways to achieve those student learning outcomes.”

“Students are my number one priority every time, anything I can do to make their transition more streamline, I will definitely do it.”

Thinking Outside the Box, Inside the House

For Assistant Professor of Jewelry and Metalworking Kerianne Quick, teaching in a professional art/jewelry making studio with hammers, anvils, and torches is not an option anymore. She is finding low budget ways to recreate the studio environment and assigning a collaborative project with a university in Texas.

“I’m trying to keep it light and fun, engaging and distracting - art is a really powerful tool for processing hard information and dealing with crappy situations and I’m hoping that this can be a way to find some joy in this strange moment,” said Quick.

“My classes are doing a collaboration with the Jewelry & Metal’s program at the University of Texas at El Paso. All of our students are going to make a necklace project about social distancing using only the materials they find in their house. Professor Jess Tolbert (UTEP) and I have always wanted to do a cross-institutional collaboration. This would have never happened if we weren’t in this situation now. We are using this project as a way to conceptually connect to what is happening and see how students can think together while being physically apart.”

Public Speaking Via Online Platforms

Kiana Kikuchi is a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the School of Communication who teaches COM 103, a traditional freshman-level public speaking course.

“It has been pretty hectic. I think it was hard to keep track of when the transition was happening. It was very difficult to keep getting updates every day, sometimes multiple times per day,” said Kikuchi. “For my students, I tried to minimize my communication with them until I got absolute confirmation on anything. I hope that it helped them to try to maintain our schedule and make the class as close to in-person as possible.”

“I teach public speaking, so it all feels very counterintuitive to be teaching online. My lessons usually focus on activities, but I have been trying to focus more on content and lectures. After a few lectures, I found that it was still easy to stimulate class discussion. The students still remained engaged and eager to learn given the circumstances. I have also been taking advantage of the various features of online learning such as quizzes and Blackboard and polling features on Zoom.”

The Foundation of a New Normal

While many of these changes are temporary, it is important to note the flexibility and strength of PSFA working together.

“When push comes to shove, the faculty of SDSU and PSFA are so supportive and helpful and act as each other’s resources,” said Rodriguez. “I am constantly meeting new people and we are all supporting each other. There have been a lot of opportunities while we are teaching to help each other learn about software and tools in the digital humanities.”

If you are a student, faculty or staff member in need of resources or more information, please visit the SDSU COIVD-19 website.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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