Professors take their classrooms, faculty senate online during COVID-19 pandemic

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Now that Kansas State has shifted to online-only instruction for the remainder of the spring semester, students and faculty alike are adjusting to remote learning. (Archive photo by Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

Adjusting from classroom instruction to at-home learning has presented many challenges for Kansas State students and faculty, with professors in particular having to make many changes they never dreamed of.

While Saurav Pathak, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, no longer has to commute from his home in Overland Park, he said he misses seeing his students in person.

“I love to have my students around me,” Pathak said. “So I want to see them around me, because that, I believe, brings out the best in me.”

Pathak conducts his classes over Zoom at their regular meeting time to keep a structured feel. He records each session to provide students who don’t have access to strong WiFi a chance to watch them.

While Pathak said he doesn’t think that the quality of instruction has suffered, it has been a challenge to adjust to not physically seeing people when teaching and still trying to operate as if they’re there.

“I have had about 30 to 35 percent of the class participate in real time with me,” Pathak said. “I still feel that my teaching effectiveness and the assurance of learning comes out very well if I am aware that there are live audiences, listening to me.”

Pathak said he worries that not all of his students will see the links they’re supposed to go to for assignments and meetings, and he doesn’t know why that is for each individual. It may be easier for some students to speak up in the classroom about an issue rather than over email, he said.

Tanya Gonzalez, professor of English and faculty senate president, is still conducting weekly senate meetings over Zoom in addition to managing life at home with her family.

“I think faculty and grad students who are teaching courses right now, they’re both struggling to kind of maintain balance,” Gonzalez said. “One of the things that I’ve been encouraging people to do is to … remember to take breaks to stop and try to do things that are non-work, and non-school related, to have those kinds of moments where you can put things away.”

While balancing life at home, the 90-member faculty senate is still doing work. The senate just passed an optional mental health syllabus statement that professors can include on their syllabus, which points students to mental health resources both on and off campus.

Next week, the senate will be looking at a university excused absence policy that will help faculty and students have conversations about what absences are because of university responsibilities or representing the university in some way shape or form, and which are at the discretion of faculty.

“It’s business as usual with the added component of just checking in about all the changes that are going on,” Gonzalez said. “It’s tough now because we’re doing everything remotely.”

Gonzalez said this arrangement can feel overwhelming.

“Everyone usually has their phone with them, so you’re getting alerts about different kinds of things and so it can really feel overwhelming, like you are constantly on,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really important to sort of unplug and disengage. And I think that’s part of that national narrative of how to cope with the constant Zoom meetings or the constant assignments.”

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