Instructors Get Creative as Colleges Move to All-Online Classes

CARLTON COUNTY, Minn. – Colleges and universities are switching to all-online classes as the coronavirus spreads.

That can be a big challenge for teachers who have to change their curriculum to fit the current situation.

Annie Dugan is teaching in a unique space for the rest of the semester.

“Right now we have this big open greenhouse that I can let the kids play around in and hopefully that will let me get some work done on my computer,” explained Dugan.

Dugan and her husband own the organic Food Farm in Wrenshall. She also teaches art history and gallery practices at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth.

“I ripped up the syllabus and the second half of the semester we are going to be looking at art in times of crises,” said Dugan. “So how have artists in history responded to times of uncertainty?”

Dugan says she and her colleagues have collaborated in an amazing way to change how they will relay information to students this spring.

She says the coronavirus situation is an opportunity to think outside the box and change coursework to help those in need.

“How can we use art to connect with those of us in your community who are going to have a really hard time with this?” asked Dugan. “Who’s going to be really isolated and how can we use art to connect with them?”

Meanwhile, at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, biology instructor Cathy Podeszwa is learning how to teach science labs outside of a classroom.

“I’ll probably do a couple of demonstrations on extracting DNA from strawberries and I’m actually kind of sad that they don’t get to do that, but they could do it at home,” said Podeszwa. “It’s actually very easy.”

She will conduct video lectures on the online platform ‘Zoom.’ Plus, she’s encouraging students to complete lab work wherever they are during the campus shutdown.

“I’m doing an environmental science class and we were going to do a couple of great field trips, so that’s going to be different, but instead of that I’m probably going to ask them to do something in their local area where they can be outside or they can be monitoring something,” explained Podeszwa.

She says the current situation has helped her learn more teaching skills and options, some of which she will continue when on-campus learning starts again.

“I think that this could really enhance teaching in the future,” she added.

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