York Professors Are Still Changing Their Teaching During the Second Semester of Online Learning. Here’s How They Do It.

Professor’s are still adjusting to online learning | Photo by Creative Commons

By Shanaé Harte

Early in March, when the coronavirus became a national problem and schools closed across the United States, it was inevitable that teachers and professors had to transition to a distance learning model. 

Because the transition came so abruptly, professors at York College were granted a grace period of one week to learn how to conduct their courses online. Personal Health Issues–Health 111– is a ‘college requirement course’ that all York students are required to take. The course involves students self-assessing their personal health behavior and would require some form of exercise. Though this is the case for Dr. Victor Ramsey, one of the assigned professors for the course, transitioning to the distance learning method did not present much of a challenge for him.

 “Firstly, I assessed the situation at hand to establish an immediate plan of action,” said Ramsey. “I knew that things (class sessions) would have to remain constant and aligned with the course requirement. Then I drafted a working plan and implemented remote coursework that was successful.”

    Because the early transition was seamless for him, Ramsey had no problem with conducting his course online for the Fall 2020 semester. Ramsey used the summer to familiarize himself more with the distance learning method and even found himself slightly adjusting his curriculum to fit an asynchronous method for the semester. 

    “This semester offered more pre-planning time, so I organized my lessons, materials, articles in a systematic way to follow the same pattern across the three sections that I am teaching,” said Ramsey.

    Health 111 is a known exercise-based course and because students could no longer be managed first hand, Ramsey had to come up with a creative way to ensure his students were still meeting the requirements of the course. To ensure this, he asked students to create fitness plans conducive to their lifestyle, modify their diets, and report to him on these things. 

    Another professor who sailed smoothly into virtual learning method during the Spring was Assistant Professor of Aviation, John Kolmos. Kolmos considers the transition to be straight forward but noted that permission had to be sought by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for students enrolled in Dispatch Certification courses, (AVIA 100 through 400) to conduct their classes online.

    Kolmos is currently teaching AVIA 300 this semester which is a course that teaches ‘federal regulations applicable to the field of aircraft dispatch,’ according to the description on the college’s website. Because Kolmos had a straight forward transition earlier in the year, he did not change much when preparing for the Fall 2020 semester.

    “I am not doing anything really differently,” said Kolmos. “I did buy a document camera because I believe it is a better way to show students how to use charts and diagrams needed in aviation easier than using it directly online from [powerpoints] PPT’s. It acts like those older overhead projection cameras for the PC.”

The one thing that is different about Kolmos’ course is that while on campus, aviation students would usually be taken on different trips to help build their careers. Typical aviation major trips include the Women in Aviation Conference, National Association of Business Aviation Conference, and Airport Executive and Managers Association Conference. At these events students would have the opportunity to attend seminars, network, and visit booths to arrange interviews and share resumes as they network with different aviation companies. Students were also taken to different airports and train stations around New York City in an effort to give them first-hand experience in certain operations areas.

“All these trips are designed to help them get a real-world understanding of Aviation professions and to help them to network and build relationships with key people in the industry,” said Kolmos. 

Of course, due to the coronavirus, these trips could no longer take place.

Though both professors are conducting their courses smoothly online, they both miss conducting their courses on campus. 

    On this, Professor Kolmos said, “I like the convenience of teaching online especially since I live so far out east, I also have resources to use in my office that are not as easily available on campus; however I miss the personal interaction with students that I get when I am there.

Goes without saying, I’d rather teach on campus anytime.”

    One complaint that many students have had since the beginning of the new semester was that they were not learning but rather completing assignments to meet a given deadline. Despite this general complaint about professors’ teaching methods, both Kolmos and Ramsey believe their ways are effective.

    “FAA classes such as I’m teaching have been used online for almost two decades,” said Kolmos. “The testing involved can be done in such a way as to show retention of material. Testing does not have to be only written assignments. Oral testing online can be just as effective and is permitted by the FAA.” 

    Kolmos also stated that he verbalizes his lectures and uses powerpoints with videos, graphics, and includes student interaction to ensure that his students are not uninterested and lost while he is teaching. None of the students taking his course have complained about his teaching skills.

    For Ramsey, there is no specific teaching method, but he allows the students in his course to offer their thoughts and disagreements with the course and conforms as he sees fit. But, Ramsey has come up with a technique to motivate his students.

    “I plan to pilot a few ice-breakers and other online games that lend themselves to motivate students,” said Ramsey. 

    No one is certain when professors will be able to start teaching on campus again but for now, professors are doing all that they can to ensure that students are still learning and coping with the semester as though they were on campus. 

    On this Ramsey said, “We should be grateful for the opportunities to share our lives with friends and family, and reach out to help our fellow humans when we can,” said Ramsey. “I trust that this calamity we are living in will pass and we will be better human beings.”

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