Interview: A University Professor Speaks on the Transition to e-learning

Author: Meghan Kennelly


Many educational institutions are migrating their classes to be virtual amid the current climate. These sudden transitions are forcing not only students to change the way they learn, but also teachers to change the way they teach.

To gain some perspective on the impact this is having on professors and what tools they are using to maintain a business-as-usual front, we spoke to Professor of Legal Studies, Kathleen Mack. While Professor Mack has had experience teaching blended courses in the past, this sudden switch comes with unique challenges.

Did your institution have any tools in place before having to make this transition?

Our College already had Zoom and has now upgraded faculty to Pro accounts for synchronous teaching/office hours ability. We also already had a learning management system (Brightspace) and programs related to setting up on-line courses.

What impact is this having on how you communicate with students?

It’s all via email or through our LMS. When you teach multiple classes, you are sending out similar but not identical information to each class, so it is time consuming. And despite the unknowns, I need to remain confident and reassure the students. Starting next week, I will have Zoom office hours so I will be able to talk to students directly if that is easier for them.

What challenges have you seen so far?

Initially, the main challenge is how time-consuming it is to move classes on-line. Under normal circumstances, I would start preparing an on-line course months before the course starts and now, I have one week to prep multiple on-line classes.
Additionally, because of the time crunch, everything in the course is pretty basic. There is limited time to learn new and different technology options, so I am not able to take advantage of the technology that I otherwise would for an on-line course. I am confident I am providing the students with the content, tests, and assignments necessary to complete the classes, but I know I am not providing everything in the best possible way.

Are you facing issues or a learning curve with new technology needed to continue?

I am lucky in that I have taught a blended course (50/50 online/classroom) so I have familiarity with recording basic lectures and setting up each course in the LMS. I had never hosted a Zoom meeting, so I needed to test that out before I roll that out to students.
I know other faculty in our program and college who have either haven’t used the technology or have very limited experience with it who have been very stressed. We also have adjunct instructors who have other full-time jobs, so it is particularly challenging for them to find the time to learn how to adapt the course to on-line or synchronous format. And some students have never taken an on-line class, so this is all new and different to them as well.


What is your institution providing to help with your new set up? If nothing, is it hard to request these items?

My College has been very supportive. They are providing numerous training opportunities this week before classes resume. They are also attempting to provide laptops, headsets, etc. to those faculty who need them. I am not sure if everyone who needs devices have been able to get them. We also have concerns about whether our students have what they need; although the College can provide limited assistance. Students tend to use their phones for everything but that is not the best way to access an on-line course.

What types of hardware or software do you think would help your situation?

Because I have already taught a blended course and have always set it up on my home computer, I am hopefully in pretty good shape. I currently am using my laptop speakers and have a microphone. So far, they are working but it is just me setting up the courses right now. I will know more when everything goes live next week.

collaboration.PNGView our tips for selecting the right solutions for virtual classrooms, remote learning and online classes here.