Texas Tech professors discuss how they have implemented Zoom in their class amid the COVID-19 pandemic and why.
Academic instruction has changed at Tech, Ryan Fay, a part-time graduate instructor at the School of Theatre and Dance, said.
Everyone was in different situations when classes were moved remotely in Spring 2020, Fay said.
Fay designed his class to have the weekly lectures hosted on Zoom and attendance was optional, he said. All assignments were turned in online.
“The main rule was keeping yourself muted when you were not speaking,” Fay said. “I allowed my students to not have their camera on if they didn’t want to.”
The requirement of having the camera on is a privacy issue, and it could affect the students’ comfort level, Fay said.
“I would end up teaching to black screens a lot,” Fay said. “It was a little hard to teach sometimes.”
When lecturing, Fay said he usually looks for students’ reactions to see if they understood the lecture. Since he could not see the students, he had to adjust how he got students’ confirmation.
“I would have to ask questions very regularly and often,” Fay said. “I would ask questions like, ‘Are you guys following me? Does this make sense?’”
Having feedback is essential to know if the students are following, Fay said. That may be why some professors require the camera to be on, for their comfortability in teaching.
John Nelson, an assistant professor in the history department, said he currently only uses Zoom for office hours.
“I opted for asynchronous,” Nelson said.
Having to lecture to 300 students on Zoom would be problematic and not worth the hassle, Nelson said.
“I think that there is potential for a lot of distractions on Zoom,” Nelson said. “However, if my face-to-face class has to move online at some point over the semester, I will teach it over Zoom.”
Nelson would request that students have their cameras on because the class is a small upper-level discussion-based class, he said.
“I know some people who do the opposite of that,” Nelson said. “But I need to be able to see students participating together in a shared environment of trust.”
Nelson would ask his students to be professional, especially about their backgrounds and their settings, he said.
Barbara Hahn, a professor in the history department, said she studies technological change. Society is going through is a technological shift.
“Two years ago, students and parents wanted more online classes,” Hahn said. “And now, online classes aren’t good enough.”
When a desirable thing has shifted to an undesirable thing, Hahn said it indicates the world is in a new place.
“In my experience, when there was a massive technological shift, it was already happening,” Hahn said. “Zoom and everything did not just exist, it was already here, the change just accelerated the process.”
The change has created many opportunities, Hahn said. Students are communicating more via email, and classes now have more independent learning.
“We are very eager to offer students more face-to-face classes because we know what it means to have that interaction for both student and professor, but this experience has taught us a lot of new skills,” Hahn said.
The shift in learning has taught professors to think more intensely about course design, Nelson said.
“I think it has forced us all to think about class prep a lot more,” he said. “It has also made us communicate over email and online more.”