Online Learning

BC professors incorporating personal touches into online courses

BC professors incorporating personal touches into online courses

Wed Jul 29, 2020

The Spring 2020 semester at Brazosport College was unlike any that had been seen before, as the COVID-19 outbreak forced all classes online. As a result, the Brazosport College community rose to this challenge and quickly developed and adapted to creative and flexible methods of instruction in this new learning environment.

This coming fall, a majority of classes at BC will again be online, but it will be a much different experience.

Having the opportunity to begin the semester with an organized plan for online classes will be a huge benefit for both students and professors, said Isaiah Schauer, BC Chair of the Division of Mathematics & Life Sciences, and Associate Professor of Life Sciences.

“It will be a night and day difference,” Schauer said. “For the professors and the faculty, we’ve gone through an extensive amount of training, from constructing an online experience for our students to learning how to connect with students in a live virtual environment.

“For the students, we are structuring life at Brazosport College to have as much live, virtual interaction as possible,” Schauer added. “No matter the class, there will be a lot of learning support for our students. Students will also have opportunities to spend time online with their classmates.”

Schauer will be teaching two types of online courses — Scheduled-Live Online, in which students log in to a class at a particular day and time for a live lecture and class, and Online only, which is the traditional online method where students work at their own pace. BC will also offer Blended courses, which combine online classes with limited face-to-face meetings, as well as a small number of face-to-face courses. All face-to-face classes will have strict social distancing measures and other precautions in place.

Through his five-plus years of teaching classes online, Schauer has learned there are many advantages to remote learning.

“Some would expect videoconferencing to be cold and distant, but I’ve found it to be the complete opposite,” Schauer said. “When I’m in a session — whether it’s an office session with a student or in a live lecture — we’ve shared personal stories and gotten to know each other. It really is a very human experience. Students tend to open up and tell me more about their lives, and that’s way beyond what you usually get in a classroom.”

Joy Kennedy-O’Neill, BC Associate Professor of English, agrees with Schauer’s opinion, but she comes to the world of online learning from a completely different place. Her first experience teaching an online class occurred in March, when COVID-19 forced her to move into the virtual world.

“I was so behind, I didn’t even realize my laptop had a camera and a microphone,” Kennedy-O’Neill said with a laugh. “But I went from not even knowing my laptop had that capability to recording online lectures and meeting with students.

“As an instructor, we are always telling our students to get out of their comfort zones and do new things,” she added. “I felt it was important that I be a role model and do the same thing.”

Now, Kennedy-O’Neill has embraced online learning and is enjoying the different opportunities it offers.

“For one, you can pace yourself,” she said. “We have students who work and have changing schedules. I think having this flexibility is really helpful. Students have also told me that they appreciate having the lectures online to re-watch. They’ve said it’s easier to take notes.”

More than anything, though, Kennedy-O’Neill has been surprised at how comfortable the online environment has been for both her and her students.

“In a weird way, it’s been a little more intimate than being in a face-to-face class,” she said. “We get to see each other’s pets, and the kids might even pop in and I’ll get to say hello. It’s more of a level playing field, if you will. When I’m on campus, people have to find my office and go there. Being online, I’m only a click away. I’ve been pleased with the capabilities of being online.”

Schauer and Kennedy-O’Neill also are quick to mention that students shouldn’t have any fear of online learning, especially at Brazosport College, which has a multitude of methods available where students can seek help. Whether it’s the BC Library, the Math and Writing Centers, the SI Leaders, the professors themselves, or other forms of assistance, such as financial aid, counseling, the Information Technology helpdesk or other services, the College’s staff and faculty are all available online and are ready to assist students.

“We know these are unprecedented times and we are really going above and beyond to make everything personal and engaging,” Kennedy-O’Neill said. “It would be a shame for someone to let their educational gameplan fall to the wayside when Brazosport College can offer a helping hand.

“We are all in this together.”

Brazosport College is currently registering for the Fall 2020 semester. For more information, visit www.brazosport.edu/choose or call (979) 230-3000. To learn more about Brazosport College’s plans for the Fall semester, visit www.brazosport.edu/BacktoBC.