Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Students sitting down before their Oceanography class starts in Bailey Hall on Sept. 29, 2021. Students will return to in-person instruction on Feb. 7.

February 3, 2022

Professors and Instructors Eagerly Await the Start of In-Person Instruction

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Prof. Paul Friedland, history, commutes seven to eight hours weekly from his home in Maine to teach in Ithaca. Virtual instruction makes his mornings easier, but he says that remote instruction simply isn’t the same as face-to-face learning.

“[Teaching] just doesn’t work as well virtually as it does in person,” Friedland said. He suggested that, compared to in-person teaching, it’s harder to get students energized with virtual instruction.it’s harder to get students energized with virtual instruction.

The University decided to make instruction virtual for the first two weeks after the campus shut down following a significant increase in COVID-19 cases on campus. The administration anticipated a rise in cases upon student’s return from winter break and hoped to mitigate health risks with this method. 

The University is set to return to in-person instruction on Monday, Feb. 7. Across departments, professors are particularly expressive of a desire to return to in-person instruction.

Friedland said that for many professors in the humanities departments, the lack of human interaction makes the experience “less than optimal.” He expressed his anticipation for engaging students in physical discussions and seminars, and he hopes the University can return to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

Prof. Stephen Lee, chemistry, said he is eager to teach in-person and finds it safer to be on campus than to have a remote semester.

“I think everyone will be safer here [because] we have the resources; if the percentage [of positive cases] gets higher, we’ll know that,” Lee said.  

Despite assurance to parents, students and faculty of the return to in-person instruction in a Jan. 6 email, many professors are still, as Lee said, “crossing their fingers” that the transition is smooth.

As a visiting professor at Cornell, Prof. James Belk, mathematics, faced some challenges adapting to remote teaching, as many of his teaching methods are not possible online. 

In an email to The Sun, Belk expressed gratitude for the decision to hold virtual instruction.

 “I have a four-year-old son who isn’t old enough to be vaccinated, so I’m really appreciative [of the in-person modality],” he said.

Senior lecturer Justin St. Juliana, ecology and evolutionary biology, was largely satisfied with the decision to move to virtual. 

St. Juliana is a lecturer for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 1610: Introductory Biology: Ecology and the Environment, and he currently teaches his course asynchronously. Discussion sections are taught over Zoom to maintain some real-time learning and interactive teaching.

Having experienced multiple semesters of virtual instruction, St. Juliana was able to draw upon the skills he has developed previously. From adapting instruction materials to maintaining student interactions over Zoom, St. Juliana felt prepared for these two weeks.  

St. Juliana’s opinion on the University’s integration of virtual learning was also positive. 

“I think it was an appropriate strategy,” St. Juliana said. “I think it was a pretty smooth process.”

Students also shared mixed reactions regarding the first two weeks of virtual instruction, with some feeling indifferent as they took many high school classes virtually, and many saying they are looking forward to the return to in-person instruction on Feb. 7.

Combined with the recent decision by the University to move to alert level green, many instructors also expressed confidence that the next few months will bring about opportunities for balancing mental health and social interaction with a return to in-person learning.

“We’re certainly prepared and excited to get back in the classroom,” said St. Juliana. “I am optimistic.”