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Remote Learning Perspectives: Jason Marion

Jason Marion

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 first installment in the Remote Learning Perspectives series features Jason Marion, a professor in the environmental health sciences department at EKU. He is currently teaching EHS 370, and EHS 300W and 300WL in an online format. 

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

A: Typically, it involved a mixture of daily assessment, lecture, a lot of in class Q&A, and a review session. Specifically, there would be a daily quiz based upon the previous class content, and occasionally recommended reading or a recommended YouTube video. We would also have three or four exams throughout the semester, depending on the class.

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

A: Throughout the semester in my EHS 370 class, we discussed what a quarantine for the U.S. may look like, along with other outbreaks and the authority granted for doing a lot of what is happening today in U.S. public health law. We were not as surprised as some were.

As faculty regent and an epidemiologist serving on the EKU COVID-19 team, there’s a part of me that came to the realization that this must be done, and that however we do it, we must honor our commitment to being a school of opportunity. We must meet students where they are with respect to technology and life circumstances. I anticipated there would be more work for me and my colleagues, but I also was at peace with it all. It is one thing to do something when you’re not sure if it is right, but what we are doing is right from a values perspective, and  it’s delivering on our promise to our students. 

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

A: One of the most difficult challenges was the need to modify what I thought I wanted to do online to meet my students where they are in their lives. 

In the EHS program, we have a tremendous diversity of students. I’ve got students who are parents, some who have to share the household computer, and some who have to drive to a mountaintop or to a public WiFi hotspot to participate. Together, we had an awesome classroom environment where we all supported one another like a family. Once I heard from one of my students of internet access issues at certain times, I polled my class to let me know of their individual circumstances.  Based on their feedback, as much as I would like to use some type of program like Zoom, I’ve had to improvise and use a lot of YouTube videos from my Screen-Cast-o-Matic recordings, quizzes, send Powerpoints, and give students instructions on how to submit online assignments over a longer duration. I’ve really tried to be open and generous in my communication, letting students call, text and email me anytime. I’ve also had to create a variety of assessments for each student and increase my grading time. I send emails to students individually asking them to reply about their understanding of the instructions and commit to do the assignments independently. I trust my students, and when students from Kentucky give me their written word, they honor it.  We were fortunate to build trust and rapport the first week of the semester. 

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

A: Despite all the obstacles in the world and impacting other universities, I’ve learned that EKU is among the best at putting students first and their education first. In interacting with my other faculty colleagues, some who had little or no background in online teaching technologies, they are committed to this endeavor. I’ve learned how fortunate I was to have time with these students before this online environment to build a relationship, and to be in a program that builds relationships with our students. Our students are family and that has become even more evident to me in this set of events. 

Also, for my epidemiology class, I’ve learned more about SARS-COV-2 and COVID-19 because I’m including even more about these topics in the class since my profession is on the front lines of public health.  

Published on April 01, 2020

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