President Marc Johnson and Medical Director Cheryl Hug-English announced in an email on Thursday, March 12 the University of Nevada, Reno that classes will be shifted online due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are striving to minimize large gatherings and face-to-face contact that can occur in instruction, office hours and workspace, limit exposure posed by international travel and to stress flexibility and understanding for those affected by our decisions in order to effectively meet the challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak,” they said in the email.
Daniel Fred is a professor who teaches CAS 154, Problems of Substance Abuse and Addiction and SW 311, Theoretical Perspectives on Human Behavior. Fred is also known for his involvement with NevadaCARES, an activist group that does outreach and education on interpersonal violence to students, faculty and staff at UNR.
Fred said he prefers the interaction of a large classroom.
“It’s not the same interacting with students,” Fred said to the Nevada Sagebrush through Twitter direct message. “They seem less likely to talk on video, or even show video, so the interaction isn’t there.”
He tried to structure his online course to encourage students to participate in his lectures.
“The best part of zoom has been the end of the class…when I’m done with the material and the students are done with questions, then we just chat,” he said.
Fred also said it was weird to him lecturing and only hearing himself when he teaches with no social feedback from students.
“It just doesn’t feel right only hearing yourself laughing at your own jokes,” Fred said.
He does not believe there was an alternative method for classes.
“The difficulties and frustrations I’m having with this transition most of my colleagues I know at other universities are experiencing,” he said. “They are mostly related to the disconnect from students we feel.”
Fred said he has heard from some of his students how some courses are increasing the workload due to the transition to online.
“I have done the opposite,” Fred said. “I have seen what I can take out and try to let the students in my classes know I’m available if they need anything and we have resources still available through the university. This is a collective trauma we’re going through, and we have to learn a balance of being easy and compassionate on ourselves, while still learning, growing, and staying connected.”
Fred said this situation reminded him of why he teaches.
“I thrive on interacting and getting to know the students,” Fred said. “I love the material I teach, but it’s the students that matter the most. Most people I know are struggling with the loss of connection. We miss the students more than anything else that we have lost.”
Gretchen Berg, a sophomore studying Biochemistry, finds it harder to keep pace with online courses and having a connection with professors.
She is currently taking BIOL 300 through Zoom. In her ECON 102 course, she is taught through recorded lecture videos. In her CH 202 course, she is taught through posted powerpoints and discussions. In her PHYS 152 course, she is sent a list of Khan Academy videos to watch.
“I feel like the switch to online will negatively impact me as a STEM student, in the long run, more so than in the short run,” she said through direct messages. “It’s possible to learn online, but much harder to grasp subjects that I need to retain for future classes.
Berg also expressed concerns about her education after she graduates from UNR.
“I also worry about the fact that further education in STEM may not be accepting of pass/fail grades and that…may limit my peer’s options,” she said.
Berg said she wished the university was more direct and cohesive in their instructions to professors regarding transitioning.
“Some of my professors have stepped up and done a wonderful job to bridge the transition, but one of my professors has essentially quit teaching us,” she said. “If there had been more direct guidelines for teachers, I feel that the students would have been better off.”
Riley Cloyd, a freshman studying music education, finds this situation difficult.
“Being a music major during this is really difficult since a huge part of this major is taking what you learned from classes and lessons and applying it to ensemble work and prep,” he said through direct messages. “It’s very difficult as you’re taking information and skills to see how to implement them into our craft.”