Professors adapt teaching styles to technology, online learning

Though some classes are still held in hybrid and in-person formats this semester, many went remote. This has presented struggles for professors as well as students. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

After a quick switch to remote learning last spring, professors at Kansas State were able to more adequately prepare for online classes this fall.

J.J. Brotton, marketing instructor, said her previous experience teaching online helped her manage her classes this semester.

“My philosophy with online teaching is just try to be as concise as I possibly can, lay it out in as simplest format as I can, so nobody will have questions,” Brotton said. “I think trying to be as clear as possible is where I try to go.”

Despite her experience teaching online, Brotton said she prefers teaching in-person to get to know her students and stay engaged.

“I’m really sad that when I go back to campus, I won’t be able to recognize the faces of this group of students,” Brotton said. “For me, that’s the whole reason I do this job. I love the students, so not being in the classroom and having those interactions is really rough.”

Don Saucier, psychology professor, said for him, the most important aspect of teaching online is consistency.

“Every class is going to have a rhythm, it’s going to have a structure to it,” Saucier said. “Every Monday morning, that’s when my lecture material goes out. Every Tuesday afternoon, I have the highlight session where they’re synchronous with me and I go over the things that are the most important, and I’ll handle their questions.”

Brotton said her biggest struggle in teaching online is knowing whether classes are working without the feedback she’s used to in a face-to-face class.

“I don’t get to see their faces. I don’t get to see their eye rolls or their shoulder shrugs or them whispering to a friend when I talk about an assignment,” Brotton said. “I don’t get to see those things, so I’m not exactly sure how well everything is working. The few conversations I’ve had with students, they say things are OK.”

Jeremy Briggs, sociology instructor, teaches a hybrid introduction to sociology class. Briggs said the preparation for the online portion of his course is vastly different than that for an in-person class.

“With in-person, you can read the room a little bit and get a feel for the atmosphere, and you can adjust on the fly,” Briggs said. “With online, it’s much more prepared beforehand, and you deliver it, and it either works or it doesn’t.”

Stacey Lhuillier, finance instructor, offers multiple synchronous lectures to provide students with as much structure and opportunity to ask questions as possible.

“I have found that the synchronous classes that I’ve provided are a huge contribution to the class,” Lhuillier said. “Last spring, everything I did was recorded, and I feel like there were a lot of moments where students took that information for granted and didn’t feel like it was necessary, so they missed a lot of key information.”

Briggs chose to not offer many synchronous lectures this semester due to complications with technology, including WiFi quality issues for both instructors and students.

“If you require a live Zoom meeting, and the technology fails, there’s no way to come up with an alternative on the fly,” Briggs said. “The challenges with the technology are much higher in online instruction.”

Saucier said helping students navigate classes effectively is important for professors to keep in mind.

“Our students aren’t necessarily going to remember everything we taught them, but they’re going to remember how we guided them through this,” Saucier said. “If they remember that we tried our best to provide a positive educational experience, we tried our best to be empathetic to their situations and we tried our best to bring peace to our classes, they’re going to remember that.”