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Remote Faculty Perspectives: Don Yow

Don Yow in the Bahamas

COVID-19 has forced universities across the nation to close their campuses and institute online instruction methods in a matter of weeks. While a sudden switch to remote learning presents unique obstacles, EKU faculty rise to the challenge and remain committed to student success. This installment in the Remote Learning Perspectives series features Don Yow, professor in the geosciences department at EKU. He is currently teaching GEO 315, GEO 351, and GLY 102 in an online format. 

Q: How did a normal class look for you before EKU moved to remote instruction? 

A: GEO 315 was mostly lecture with some demonstrations and assignments mixed in. GEO 351 was about 25% lecture, 25% discussion, 25% assignments, and 25% group project.  GLY 102 was a very hands-on class with very little lecture. Content was primarily delivered through modeling lessons appropriate for elementary students and reading children’s books.

Q: What was your reaction when you learned that this class would be moved to remote instruction?

A: I’ve taught GEO 210 Introduction to Physical Geography online many times, so I was already comfortable teaching online.  My biggest concern was doing this with so little preparation time, because teaching online effectively requires a lot of planning and up-front work.

Q: What were some challenges you encountered moving instruction online? How did you solve them?

A: The biggest challenge for me has been the lack of face to face interaction.  If I can see my students, I can usually tell if they are understanding what I’m teaching, or if I need to try a different approach.  I’ve tried to overcome this in several ways. First, I’ve been giving detailed notes with lots of examples and analogies to illustrate concepts.  I’ve also posted links to online content and videos. Secondly, I give even more feedback on student work than I normally do. I also post announcements on Blackboard and send group emails more often than usual to keep students informed about what they should be doing, and/or to clear up anything about which students email me questions.  I would normally do most of that in class. I’ve set up discussion boards where students can post questions and comments to me and each other. Finally, I repeatedly emphasize that students should feel free to email any questions, comments, or concerns to me, and have spent much more time than usual responding to such inquiries. 

Q: What have you learned from this experience?‚Äč

A: I think the most important thing that I have done is to reassure students that I still care very much about their learning and that I’m still here for them – that has never changed.  My students know that I want each of them to succeed and I will do my best to help that happen. If a student is struggling, I don’t hesitate to try something new or different. I show students my dedication by keeping them informed, posting good material, and responding to their emails in a timely and friendly manner.  I also understand that some of them may be struggling with daily life, so I try to be as flexible and understanding as possible.

Published on April 15, 2020

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