In Fall 2021, students will be asked to return to in-person learning. After a lonely and stressful year, I am thrilled about this. I have missed my students dearly, as I love interacting with them in the classroom. Undeniably, the pandemic became especially hard on students’ learning by separating them from their peers and instructors, but, luckily, the flipped-classroom experience was nonetheless supportive for student engagement and academic success during a difficult year of online learning.
What I am most looking forward to when it comes to teaching organic chemistry in person next semester is being able to witness my students’ “light bulb” moments in the classroom. One of the reasons that teaching online was such a struggle for me (and I’m sure for other instructors as well) was because I wasn’t able to visualize my students in the same way. I was missing all of their individual reactions and facial expressions as they learned and worked through new content. Reading off the faces of my students is what best allows me to troubleshoot their areas of difficulties, such as hybridization models and Newman projections, so I’m excited for our upcoming in-person setting to make this student-teacher dynamic more effective and personable in the future.
One of the most important lessons that the online-classroom experience has taught me is to move at a slower pace, which lessens the chances for students to get lost. Not only have I done a better job of meeting my students where they are, instead of meeting them where I expect them to be, but I’ve also grown to appreciate how in-person learning helps make topics more clear to students through classroom discussions, group demonstrations, and problem-solving assignments, which all include lots of pen-to-paper practice.
It is highly likely that our current HyFlex component will be removed once we are back in person; however, I recognize that there is great value in recording lectures, which gives students the opportunity to go back and review the sessions later, so this is something that I’m hoping to continue doing in the future. In general, though, I’ve found that the biggest drawback of the online/HyFlex classroom model—or, in other words, what I will miss the least about online classes going forward—is that it prevents students from completely focusing on the content. The computer screen puts an additional interface between the professor and student, which further distances both parties and allows for distractions from the outside world.
Overall, although I’m grateful that the online/HyFlex setup offered temporary assistance to my students during the pandemic, I’m so excited to return to our in-person classroom, where my students will have the complete freedom to interact with me and their peers. I truly enjoy both our organic chemistry discussions and our witty side conversations, so I’m looking forward to our upcoming reunion in the fall, where we’ll all finally be able to share the satisfaction of creating new memories with each other in the classroom again.
-Kerri Taylor, Columbus State University
Feel free to share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below!