Summer 2020 was not the usual break that professors at St. Joesph’s University have become accustomed to. During the summer months, faculty and staff were working hard to ensure that students would be returning to campus in August in the most comfortable setting given the current circumstances.

In order to properly navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, the university saw many changes that needed to be made. New class formats, one way entrances and exits, limited capacity in classrooms, and new guest policies.

Dr. Parry, an Associate Professor in the Communications Department at Saint Joes, taught Ethics in Communication (COM 201) and Social Justice Photography (COM 473). Dr. Parry shares his unique perspective on teaching during these trying times.

Questions and Answers 

Overall, how did you feel this semester went? 

This is a tough question… A lot better than I had feared it would go. But not nearly as good as I had hoped it would be. I think students did a great job following university guidelines until the very end, which allowed us to stay in person for the majority of the semester. It was a tremendous amount of work for professors this semester, as we had three different teaching modalities.”

Did you find that it was easier or more difficult to schedule your classes in accordance to the university’s COVID protocols?

“Certainly more difficult than previous semesters but I think the Hybrid Format worked really well. It was not as ideal as being in person twice a week but, it was a good way to strike the balance between having that group discussion and keeping group meetings at a minimum.

The way I did it was by making group discussions really small. I gave each student intensive attention, and it certainly worked for me. I really value in person discussions, I think this semester has taught me the value of in person learning and being in the presence of other people. Students really learn not just from me talking but from talking with other students in a group setting and I think that’s really important to have.”

Can you describe this semester in one word?

“Overwhelming.” 

Are there any changes that you would like to see happen before the spring semester begins?

“A lot. This semester was the first one where we started using this education model from the start of 16-week courses.

I completely reformatted my courses, that was like the first pass to do it. It usually takes three passes to get a course right; first pass you try it, second pass you tweak it, third pass you’ve got it so I think there’s going to be a lot of stuff I alter and change to make it better in terms of content. I now know what weeks worked well, so I will focus on more of that and less of what did not work.”

SJU Outdoor Classrooms. Photo Courtesy: sju.edu

Students are well aware of this semester being a rollercoaster. It is reassuring to hear that professors feel the same way.

Dr. Parry obviously values in person learning ahead of online. Smaller group discussions were made possible because of the reduced class sizes, which worked well. Dr. Parry emphasized how this semester has been an experience in order to tweak his learning format for the spring semester. F

Be prepared for online office hours to continue even when you don’t need a mask anymore! Faculty and staff are still learning how to adapt and get the most out of online learning and Dr. Parry seems to be closing in on a solution.