By Jermarcus Perkins/Clarion News contributor
LINCOLN UNIVERSITY – There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming spring semester due to the virus pandemic. Without knowing how the severity and direction of the virus in the days ahead, many professors are not sure if classes will be in-seat, online, or hybrid.
“I think we are going to see a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases in the winter, so it will be a delayed start to in-person instruction,” said journalism instructor Gloria Enloe. “I believe the school will start virtual.” Some professors see a mix of in-class and online – commonly known as hybrid instruction.
Wellness professor Patrick Oligschlaeger thinks the campus will continue the fall semester strategy. “It sounds like the spring semester is going to look like the fall semester (with) hybrid classes and some students will have to quarantine,” said Oligschlaeger. However, he sees positive outcomes with the hybrid model.
“I think students are more engaged due to the hybrid classes,” Oligschlaeger said. “Because of the hybrid model it has allowed students to be more engaged – it has raised attendance as well.” But other teachers have seen the negatives associated with the fall semester.
Enloe, the journalism instructor, has mixed feelings. She’s glad to see students attending class, but feels teaching her trade is difficult. “It (pandemic) has hampered it a little bit, like we aren’t able to hear each other and we cannot work in groups,” said Enloe.
Crystal Mosely, a wellness professor at LU, says she has reservations about the upcoming spring semester. “I hope to be in-seat, but if Covid case numbers keep rising, I’m doubtful,” said Mosely. She says the classroom has been negatively affected. “Students are not engaged at all. It’s almost impossible to get them to speak up in class (and) some don’t even want to talk to each other.”
To get a better understanding of how engagement levels are being affected, some LU professors noted attendance and office-hours engagement. “With the hybrid classes, attendance is up due to how I am structuring the class,” Oligschlaeger said. “If a student misses a class, they will miss the instruction on an assignment.” He says attendance has been worse, with some students going into quarantine and others just disappearing. Some professors say fewer students are visiting their offices, but others say students are responding via text and email. It’s a safety issue, professors say, but it does have a negative impact.
The pandemic is also affecting how teachers give or present their instruction on a daily basis. This may be the same during the spring semester. “I can’t do partner or group activities like usual,” said Mosely. Many professors agree and note that mandatory face masks create barriers to communication.
“I think the lectures are tougher because it’s harder to hear and give facial cues,” said Enloe. However, for Oligschlaeger, the fall didn’t have a huge impact on how he provided instruction. He says he had to work harder on choosing what content to talk about during in-person class. “I had to reduce the information and edit my slides,” he said. For some teachers, the challenges have not been from school, but from their personal life.
Professor Enloe had a Covid-related issue outside the classroom. “The most challenging thing for me was having my child quarantining for two weeks,” Enloe said. “Also, I had students who had to quarantine and most of what we do is hands-on, so it has been hard getting students caught-up if they miss class. If they aren’t there, they can’t do the work.”