‘The workload has been crushing’: Professors adjust to online classes

Remote teaching coordinator Karen Robert said her position allows her to see how faculty is transitioning to the new learning style. (Submitted: Sofía Gutiérrez)

Students are not the only ones struggling with online learning. St. Thomas University professors are also trying to adjust to the new normal. 

Karen Robert is the chair of the history department and the remote teaching coordinator. The new position was created to help set priorities, translate faculty needs and help with communications for the faculty and students.  

Robert said her position allows her to see how faculty is transitioning to the new learning style. 

“Most people are saying that they are working three-times the hours that they normally put in and those were already full weeks,” she said. “The workload has been crushing. It’s incredibly time-consuming.”

Jamie Gillies, a communications and public policy professor, said he likes some aspects of his online classes.

“I find some of the discussions, especially in the introductory classes, really illuminating, but nothing can replicate being in the classroom,” said Gillies.

But not all professors have had an easy transition. Some courses have been taken apart and put back together again in order to make sense online.  

Susan Machum, a sociology professor, said online teaching is like wanting to dig a hole to plant a tree but getting the bulldozer to build a road instead. She said there’s “tons” of technology that’s brand new to her.

“It’s too much,” she said.

Each professor prefers different resources for their classes. Robert said the new Moodle, Panopto and Perusall are her favourites to use. Gillies said he enjoys the discussion boards. Machum tries to stay away from Panopto.

John Muise, a part-time English professor, feels he’s more old school than most. He’s been sticking to Microsoft Teams and email.  

“I’ve been trying to keep things as simple as possible especially with how much of a Luddite I am. I’m trying to create some sense of normalcy for the students so that they feel like they’re going to a class and that I feel like I’m going to class,” said Muise.  

On top of his old-school tendencies, Muise said he has been missing biking to campus every day and being in the classroom, but he is still grateful to be doing what he loves.

“I’m like a shark, I have to keep swimming, or I’ll die. That’s the way I feel about teaching.” 

If you’d like to hear more about professors’ experiences with online learning, listen to the second episode of IsolationU, a podcast in collaboration with St. Thomas Journalism and The Aquinian.