Reeds speaks on processes and lasting effects of online classes

To ensure that the Hastings College campus could resume operations at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, strict social distancing measures were put in place. As a result, courses have been delivered in a variety of modes and models. 

To students, these measures simply dictate that some classes may be fully online while others are delivered through a combination of in-person and online instruction. For professors and faculty, there were a variety of discipline-dependent factors to consider when choosing how they would teach their classes. Professors also had to get approval from Academic Affairs and follow guidelines to teach classes in their preferred model. 

“I made the decision pretty early on that I wanted to teach my whole classes full-time… I now teach a much larger class but I still feel it was the best decision,” said Assistant Professor of English Dr. Eleanor Reeds. “There was a lot of unsurity. I was uncertain how students would feel about the different options and what would work best with different people’s learning styles and schedules. It was really productive to think about, especially into Block Three, now that students have had a chance to take different classes and be in different modes.”

One of Reeds’ courses involved a lot of student athletes, meaning that in-person, synchronous instruction would help maintain a necessary structure and schedule. For another class, synchronous online instruction was a better fit because of certain activities. In Reeds’ opinion, the blend of online and in-person instruction also prepares students for life beyond their schooling.

“One thing I expected was that we wouldn’t be in person as much, and that I would end up doing more mixed or hybrid delivery because it was more effective … with my pedagogical approach,” Reeds said. 

As school guidelines and public health information can vary drastically even from one week to the next, especially from the end of Block Six to the start of this school year, planning content and delivery methods for classes requires preparedness as well as spontaneity. Her focus on short-term planning meant that the transition during Level Pink added one or two hours of work per lesson.

Block Six gave professors forced experience with online instruction, but as Reeds was part of the grant HC received from the National Endowment for the Humanities she was able to participate in a workshop as well. Fellow faculty members and educators of all types were also valuable resources in the ongoing process of teaching online courses.

For Reeds, the transition to online classes and back to hybrid instruction has made her reevaluate the mission and model of courses, individual activities, and of higher education as a whole to focus on truly necessary outcomes.

“There’s elements of this that I hope will be preserved, especially this element of flexibility. We have to acknowledge that not everybody can be physically on campus every day, for whatever reason that might be. If we can do a better job at helping those students stay on track and recognizing that a couple days off campus is not a radical deterrent from success, that would be a good thing,” Reeds said.