Some professors struggle with distance learning

A photo foundations class in session on Zoom. Photo by Dejania Oliver

Distance learning has been on almost everyone’s mind as many schools have made the decision to teach their students online. The number of students being taught virtually is unprecedented and teachers have found that teaching students online is not easy.

Since universities started to shut down around the country in late February, professors wondered what would happen for the upcoming year. Now that schools are midway through the fall term, professors have noted the difficulties of virtual teaching. Dealing with technology issues and the ongoing pandemic, many educators have decided the stress is too much to bear.

According to a nationwide poll done by the National Education Association (NEA),28 percent of teachers said the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more likely to retire early or leave the profession. There is a lot of pressure on educators now. Not only do they have to navigate new technology, but they have the enormous responsibility of making sure their students still receive quality education. This is a time of change for everyone, and teachers have had to find ways to cope with that change.

For professors at Florida A&M University, the same growing pains have occurred. Professors have been using Zoom and Canvas since the beginning of this semester. They have had to deal with multiple bugs in the Zoom system and have had to get used to a whole new platform for interacting with students. While it has been an easy transition for some, other professors are still adjusting to the new form of education. Training has been given to help make the process easier, but some feel that they were not thoroughly prepared for this semester.

Melanie Abrams is an English professor at FAMU. She learned in the summer that her classes would be taught through Zoom. Although training was provided to her, she still experienced some confusion about how to navigate the new technology she now had to use, specifically Canvas. Even through the difficulty, she understands adapting to the new situation is critical for success.

“Change almost always has an element of discomfort, what with all of the fumbling and figuring. So far, my equipment — the university-provided laptop — has remained reliable, and my difficulties with Zoom are caused by my inexperience,” Abrams said. “Fortunately, my students are patient. The more I learn about Canvas and Zoom, the less frustration I experience.”

The biggest change to note is the interaction between student and teacher. Having class in person can allow professors to see if anyone is having trouble understanding the work and it can encourage students to participate in discussions with their professor. Teaching class on Zoom makes all of this more difficult and can mean making a connection with the students is even harder.

James Muchovej, a professor of plant pathology at FAMU, believes that no face to face interaction makes it harder for students to be present in class. You cannot be sure if you are holding their attention or if they understand the concepts being taught.

“The most rewarding thing about teaching is the look on a student’s face when they realize that they can do something.” Muchovej said. “You don’t get to see that on Zoom.”