Educators across East Texas meet challenge of teaching online during COVID-19 outbreak

Teachers find new ways to reach students, most of whom have little to no experience with online instruction
Updated: Mar. 20, 2020 at 2:27 PM CDT
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(KTRE) - Across East Texas, students are crawling out of bed to attend online classes. It’s challenge number one for student Stuart Beal.

“I think the largest challenge is motivation. It’s like getting out of bed and actually getting to work because you’re not seeing your friends, and you’re not like in a school environment," Beal said.

There’s a learning curve for teachers, too, particularly for the ones with little to no experience with online teaching.

"I'm going to have a writing assignment every week," is what Beal’s professor instructed via Zoom, a face component of online instruction.

It’s Stephen F. Austin State University assistant professor Dr. Aaron Moulton’s first time to use Zoom. He shared his challenges.

“When I have static. When I can only see four students on my monitor at a time, and I’m showing the PowerPoint and my image, and I’m getting the next item ready," Moulton said. "It’s not fun. None of this has been fun.”

Dr. Aaron Moulton, an SFA assistant professor, teaches an online course via Zoom, a...
Dr. Aaron Moulton, an SFA assistant professor, teaches an online course via Zoom, a face-to-face online teaching component. (Source: KTRE Staff)(KTRE Staff)

Megan Weatherly, director of the SFA Center for Teaching and Learning, helps profs get out of a bind.

“There was a mix of a little bit of, ‘Holy cow! How am I going to do this?’ said Weatherly. "I’ve to turn it around pretty quickly, but most of them have adapted really well.”

Moulton is adapting, but he remains concerned about students with limited devices and data.

“You have parents at home being told to work and the children are being told to go online as well," Moulton said. "How do they share that one laptop?”

Professors have resorted to online Facebook groups to vent their frustrations. Topics include concern over messy home offices, limited tech skills, not knowing when students are bored because they can’t see them and how to reformat hands-on classes that don’t lend themselves to remote teaching.

Despite the challenges, Weatherly has noted Zoom usage is up, and professors are trying to make it fun.

“He {a professor} had put that beach background up, and when students were coming into the Zoom session, he had ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ song playing in the background because he was trying to lessen those tensions and anxiety,” Weatherly said.

It may make crawling out of bed to sign in for class a bit easier.

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