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Teaching through a pandemic

The life of a teacher often consists of meeting with students, assisting with numerous projects, answering questions and so much more.

BYU-Idaho professors Susan Walton, in the Communication Department, and Robert Holgate, in the Mechanical Engineering Department, had to adapt to teach entirely online.

Neither one of them had much experience conducting classes online and both of them worry whether online learning is helping or hurting the students.

While Walton feels as though she gets the same amount of participation in her classes, Holgate has had a different experience.

“I think this is because of the difference in class size, in that the smaller class actually communicates together much more than a larger class when online,” Holgate said.

Feeling connected to students can be a struggle, but teachers have found ways to adapt and keep a relationship with them.

“Attending class when you are physically alone can feel isolating,” Walton said. “I try to open classes a little early because I’ve noticed some students like to log in early and just chat before class, to talk about how their jobs or internships are going, and even what they’re doing for the weekend.”

Engagement is not the only issue with online learning. Classes held remotely have increased concern for students’ quality of education.

Holgate feels it’s possible to get a quality education online, but it won’t be easy.

“I think that they have to put in more effort on their own to get the same quality of education as they would when in person,” Holgate said. “Some students do put in the effort and get the same quality, while some do not put in the effort and do not get the same quality. For example, I saw one of my classes create a class study group to meet over Zoom and talk about the homework and subject.”

Although teaching through Zoom is sometimes an unpleasant experience, some teachers have found benefits.

“Our public relations classes here at BYU-I are heavily project-based,” Walton said. “We’ve always had a group of wonderful local clients that we appreciate greatly. Enhancing our ability to work as teams and develop and present projects online may actually also expand our horizons for virtual student projects in the future.”

Staying connected in this pandemic can be difficult, but in the end it is possible.

“In these unusual times, it is easy to feel less connected, and I urge students to stay connected in whatever ways you can,” Walton said. “Volunteer, serve others, use this chance to reconnect with old friends and family members, and, of course, stay connected to the Lord and to the influence of the Spirit.”

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