Faculty prepare for fall semester courses to be online again. Professors discuss the challenges that arise with online teaching. (Nicole Walker/B&W Staff)

Faculty prepare for possibility of remote fall semester

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With the looming possibility of another remote semester in the fall, professors across all disciplines are beginning to prepare for what another remote semester may look like. 

ENGR 010 professor Lawrence Butler said it has been challenging switching over to remote learning on such a short notice, and said it involved a lot of creativity and fast thinking. 

“There are some courses that are suitable for online learning and do very well,” Butler said. “This one is a much better course when it is face-to-face, when you can talk to the students and see the expression in their eyes when they get something and when they don’t get something.” 

A large portion of ENGR 010 curriculum includes the methodology of problem solving, which has been difficult to teach digitally. Butler has been troubleshooting new ways to teach the class remotely, which he plans to learn from and improve even more over the summer.

He said he hopes to transition back to in-person classes in the fall, but would like to “make more improvements” regardless. 

ECO 001 professors were advised to lighten their course load and make lectures more generic, however, both Frank Gunter and Marija Baltrusaitiene decided to teach Principles of Economics with the same intensity as an in-person course. They incorporated COVID-19’s economic effects into their lectures. 

“One of the things that I really enjoy about teaching ECO 001 is that almost every lecture can be tied into the daily news,” Gunter said. 

Gunter said we may reach a middle ground between regular classes and online classes. He said smaller classes of about 30 students could be in person, but larger lecture classes have a higher chance of staying online. 

“I like planning… But there might be a scenario I’m not even thinking of,” Baltrusaitiene said. “So, to prepare for it or think of how to prepare for it right now would be a little bit too much.”

Incoming director of first-year wiring Brooke Rollins said there have been preparations for almost any scenario for both ENG 001 and ENG 011, which are required for all first-year students. 

Rolling said one thing people can do well online is compose writing for digital spaces. 

“You can take advantage of the affordances of working digitally to help students learn about writing in online genres,” she said. 

She said while there are some topics in ENG 001 and 011 that transfer well into online learning, she is most mindful of missing face-to-face learning for a student built over the course of a semester. 

She also said professors have strategies to make writing classes personalized for Lehigh students, which she thinks is one of the greatest features of the class.

“All of our teachers really get to know each of their students,” Rollins said. “So, in the fall, if we begin online, now it’s going to be a matter of learning how to really get to know students even if it’s at a distance.”

Rollins said the English department is preparing strategies for collaborative work between students. She said it is harder when everyone is in a different place and on a different screen. 

She said professors have to talk differently when they’re on Zoom.

“It’s a different kind of genre of conversation,” she said. “The challenge is building the relationship of trust and shared goals, that I think is a little harder to accomplish online.”

As professors are preparing to best serve their students regardless of how the fall semester plays out, Lehigh announced it will make a decision on the fall semester by June 15.

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