By Yakosu Umana
Photo Submitted by Nancy MacIntosh
This semester hasnâ€™t only been challenging for students, but teachers as well. And despite teaching being like second nature to Nancy MacIntosh, she finds it difficult nowadays.
â€œI find it very tasking. Itâ€™s taking a lot more out of me than normal.â€
The UPEI academic writing instructor has been teaching for over 30 years. She has mentored other teachers on how to teach well.
Her number one rule in teaching is to make sure everyone is attentive. This term she has struggled to do so, she said.
â€œI can see their pictures (video chat frame) and theyâ€™re kind of dozing off or looking out the window or something.â€
She teaches best when she connects with her students on a personal level, MacIntosh said.
â€œIâ€™m a people-person. I like to talk to people and meet them, but when you can only see a headshot of the people youâ€™re teaching, I find it so impersonal.â€
Teaching digitally goes against the essence of teaching academic writing, because writing is personal, she said.
MacIntosh said she has received encouraging feedback from a student but felt otherwise about it.
â€œShe (her student) told me â€˜youâ€™re doing the best you can.â€™ I donâ€™t feel thatâ€™s a compliment,â€ MacIntosh said.
â€œI’ve never been told that about my teaching beforeâ€¦ I want to do better than â€˜just the best I canâ€™.â€
On Sept. 25, UPEI announced e-learning will extend to the winter semester for the majority of their courses.
MacIntosh said although she dislikes teaching digitally, itâ€™s the best decision for the safety of students.
Photo Submitted by Carlo Lavoie
Carlo Lavoie agrees. He said he has the semester has been challenging but the extension of online schooling is for the best.
â€œThere may be a second wave, so I think it is for the safety of the students,â€ said Lavoie.
He teaches French language and culture at the university, as well as being the head chairperson of the Modern Languages department.
Lavoie isnâ€™t unfamiliar to teaching digitally. He has taught his course without live lectures for the past two years, to gain more students.
However, itâ€™s different this semester, he said.
â€œ(Then) I had the feeling to know students better. Students were able to come to my office if they have a question.â€
So far, his main concern this term has been his first-year students.
â€œThese are students I find difficult to communicate with. They donâ€™t answer their emails, they donâ€™t reply. Itâ€™s difficult to have a real conversation for them.â€
With five courses online, itâ€™s difficult for them, Lavoie said.
Regarding the sudden change of teaching and learning methods, Lavoie believes its part of the university experience.
â€œI think itâ€™s part of the university life to adapt. Itâ€™s not a teaching process weâ€™re in. Weâ€™re in a learning process.â€
With the extension of online schooling, Lavoieâ€™s advice to his colleagues is to create a schedule with room for improvisation.
â€œDonâ€™t think about getting ready for the whole term, before the term starts,â€ he said.
â€œWhat is important is not what I want to teach, what is important is the way students want to learn.â€