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UNT professors and teaching assistants adapt to teaching amid COVID-19 pandemic

UNT professors and teaching assistants adapt to teaching amid COVID-19 pandemic

UNT professors and teaching assistants adapt to teaching amid COVID-19 pandemic
April 09
14:19 2020

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, many professors and teaching assistants have undergone changes to their teaching experiences. Principal lecturers and graduate teaching assistants have moved to 100 percent online communication to acclimate health concerns.

Lecturers and teaching assistants at the university have been using Zoom and Canvas as their new ways of communicating with students. Zoom meetings are held during regular class times for lectures and labs while online testing has also been implemented.

Joshua Young, a graduate teaching assistant for the Physics department, said he has fared well during the transition to all online correspondence.

“Teaching through Zoom feels much less personal to me than face to face, but I like it,” Young said. “I teach recitations for Professor Krokhin [Arkadii]. I teach seven sections a week.”

While taking a dual role of teaching and performing graduate research, the research side for Young has been affected as teaching assistants help principal lecturers with additional knowledge when it comes to the course information.

“All graduate research on campus has been closed down making it next to impossible for experimentalists to do functional research,” Young said.

Marc Grether, a principal lecturer for the mathematics department, now juggles home life with his professional life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My wife and I have four kids and they are all at home,” Grether said. “We’re working on keeping them on track while also getting what we need done.”

Along with incorporating work with home life as a principal lecturer, Grether said that in-person classes work better for the mass majority of people.

“For my online classes, I’ve been working to record my lectures on YouTube and make them available for students so they can watch them online at any time,” Grether said. “It’s made it harder to feel connected to the students and it has for sure added more work on my end.”

In-person meetings and spring commencement ceremonies have been postponed until the end of the spring 2020 semester. The transition has been incorporated to aid and assist with self-quarantine measures incorporated by Denton County officials.

“This is the best scenario for what we can do,” physics graduate TA Cory Nook said. ”I think all of us need to have patience with each other and work to do the best that we can. We’re in an environment none of us asked for.”

Nook also said a lot of his colleagues were not in the best positions to transition to the new work-from-home life due to space and internet connection issues, and said connecting students to an increased learning environment became vital.

“We tried to say, ‘Well let’s have all the students watch other people do these experiments and give them data,’” Nook said. “That way they can see people, how they’re working with this equipment and how they might actually have problems with this.”

Students studying research in various concentrations are being led to video teaching. Nook said that the biggest hurdle is the teacher-student interaction.

“It’s now having to increase their level of scientific articulation so that they understand the scientific terms that we discuss in lab,” Nook said. “So, we’re hoping that maybe with the decrease of hands-on interaction, that we’re increasing their ability towards scientific writing and improving that in scientific communication.”

William Cherry, an associate professor in the Mathematics department, is remaining hopeful, in regards to his students and with the transition.

“I hope they [the students] are staying safe, and I hope they understand that their sacrifices really are contributing to saving lives,” Cherry said.

Featured Image: The McConnell Tower is wrapped around clouds and sun on April 7, 2020. Image by Bertha Angela Smith.

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Bertha Smith

Bertha Smith

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