The coronavirus pandemic has forced professors and students to spend the semester learning how to adjust to the hybrid and online instructional model adopted by Binghamton University.
New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced all classes for spring 2020 would be held remotely on March 19. This sudden change left little time for faculty to learn new forms of technology such as Zoom, a video conferencing platform used to connect individuals, and adjust to the online-only format. This semester, the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT), a department that promotes and supports excellence in student-centered learning for the BU community, has helped professors learn the technology needed to run classrooms online.
Professors who struggle with synchronous instruction is what inspired BU’s decision to hire classroom technology assistants (CTAs), who manage the online necessities of students so professors can focus on their lectures. The CLT has held multiple online workshops to train CTAs in the skills necessary to work this equipment throughout summer 2020.
Donald Nieman, the executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said he is satisfied with the success of the CLT.
“Our faculty have really stepped up to learn about and use new modes of instruction,” Nieman wrote in an email. “I am also very proud of what staff in the [CLT], Information Technology Services and the University Center for Training and Development have done to support our faculty and students.”
James Pitarresi, vice provost for online and innovative education and executive director for the CLT, has been involved with the transition to online learning for professors. Pitarresi said opinions from faculty were especially helpful in improving this mode of learning.
“I do think the entire campus community — students, staff and faculty — have really made the difference this fall,” Pitarresi wrote in an email. “Faculty input has been critical to helping shape our response to the pandemic while striving to provide a high-quality learning experience for all our students.”
Steven Murphy, lecturer of chemistry, said the University’s efforts have been extremely helpful this semester.
“The University has been quite helpful, offering numerous workshops and seminars focusing on transitioning courses to an online environment, training with the various software and applications,” Murphy wrote in an email. “Courses with in-person components were offered the services of the [CTAS], student workers who help run the technical side of the lecture while the lecture is in progress so that the faculty member can focus on teaching.”
Bruce Murray, chair and professor of mechanical engineering, said he thinks the University’s transition to the hybrid format has been successful.
“I received a lot of guidance from the CLT regarding teaching online,” Murray wrote in an email. “Also, they provided me with some equipment to make preparing lectures easier. I am lecturing synchronously, so it is not that different from lecturing in person. The main difference is a less than optimal interaction with the students.”
Jillian Hatt, a junior majoring in psychology, has seen changes in her professors and acknowledges that their knowledge of technology such as Zoom has increased since March.
“Teachers have adapted and learned more about distance learning over the summer and seemed to make some significant changes to accommodate for those classes that are online,” Hatt wrote in an email.
Abigail Goldberg, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, said online classes used to be taken in a leisurely manner, before the pandemic. As the fall 2020 semester began, Goldberg feels more dedication is required in these unusual times.
“Online classes used to be fun to take along with three to four in-person classes just to lighten up a rough semester course load,” Goldberg wrote in an email. “One semester I took three online classes and two in person, but things are different now. With all my classes online, it takes an insane amount of time management and planning.”