NEW ORLEANS (February 21, 2022) – The concern that in-person learning is too risky is lessening for some Dillard University professors as the number of new COVID cases in Louisiana declines.
“Omicron had me concerned,” said Corinne Clements-Russo, a mass communication instructor. “However, now that we know more about it, and cases are dwindling, I believe it is a great sign the variant is on the downslope.”
Dillard started out with one week of virtual instruction this spring and then returned to face-to-face learning. As is the new normal here at Dillard, students and campus personnel must be vaccinated, and masks are still required.
Faculty members interviewed support the belief that virtual instruction may impede educational productivity.
Some said the policies and procedures put in place at Dillard are working to their and students’ advantage as some are mentally drained from fostering educational connection through a video camera in past semesters.
Clements-Russo said, “If I had to choose between online and in-person, I would always choose in-person [class]. It’s one thing for a teacher to be connected to their students, but it’s another thing for students to feel that camaraderie with each other.”
Ray Vrazel, a 16-year assistant theater professor, said he favors in-person learning because Dillard lacks enough technical support for online instruction, such as having enough smart classrooms and technicians for assistance.
“There’s only so much we can do,” Vrazel said of the faculty.
Keith Morris, program coordinator for film, said online instruction simply does not work for courses that need hands-on instruction, such as art, theatre and film.
“It’s crazy, but you have to adapt or perish. Ethically, I believe everything should be online, but teaching is hands-on in my business,” Morris said.
COVID-19 has prompted some Dillard professors to experiment in creating spaces conducive to learning while limiting the spread. Some instructors are altering how they deliver their courses to reflect the conditions and constraints of the time.
For example, Morris currently holds his classes in the expansive Bleu News studio, but he said he’d like to hold his courses outside under the oaks when the weather permits.
Dr. Hong Dai, associate professor in mathematics, offers a variety of ways to access his course material. His students can access his lecture material by six means, including face-to-face instruction and prerecorded Zoom lectures, allowing student flexibility without fear of missing out on instruction.