Returning To Campus: A Professor’s Perspective

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William Broun

Faculty Advisor

This fall, if all goes according to plan, ESU will return to face-to-face education, primarily.

If you think students are the only ones thrilled to get back onto a live, in-person campus, it’s probably because you don’t hear the things professors hear from other professors.

Like students, most faculty are tired of Zoom and online teaching. I think that’s an understatement, actually.

It feels like we’ve just spent a year drinking cold instant decaf from a tiny plastic straw.

It’s a coffee-like drink, yes, and it sort of smells like the real thing, but it’s not what we really like, and it’s hard to sip it through that 3mm-wide USB cable.

When cold decaf is all that’s on offer, we get tired of it, fast.

Personally, I’m not that into coffee, I’ve learned. I miss my matcha Frappuccino with a squirt of mint topped with fresh sweet whipped cream. (And that’s a “secret menu” recipe I learned from an ESU student in an in-person class.)

We miss you, ESU students.

It’s not that we don’t get to see you on Zoom, but such are the zillion distractions of remote learning, that half the time it can feel like we’re both only partially ”there,” even when attendance is good and everyone’s trying hard to stay engaged.

There’s always that feeling of incomplete connection.

Don’t get me wrong, Zoom and online learning tools have saved our academic lives and kept our great institution on something better than life support.

And there have been some magic moments for me as a professor on Zoom. Getting to see my students’ cats and lizards and pit bulls has been revelatory. Woof woof.

Bottom line: We’ve been able to muddle through a very difficult year, too.

But I think we’ve also learned about the best uses and serious limitations of online education. It’s nothing to do with ESU or PASSHE system. This is bigger than us.

Above all, here’s what I’ve learned: Online education works better when people want it rather than when they need it.

Most ESU students and their professors haven’t felt a sense of genuine volition about learning online in 2020 and 2021.

It’s been a thing we’ve had to do. It turns out, that makes all the difference.

I’m looking forward to the fall.

Professor Bill Broun is the faculty advisor for the Stroud Courier and teaches writing courses in the English Department.

Email Bill at:

wbroun@esu.edu

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