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One Professor's Transformation

From No-Tech to High-Tech, the Teaching and Learning Continue

March 24, 2020
Professor Weissman Zoooming in to class
Professor Weissman Zoooming in to class

Dr. Susan Weissman is the Judaic Studies department chair, and a professor, at Lander College for Women. She shares her experiences with taking her classroom online and the surprising ease with which she's recreated the rich dynamic learning environment she enjoys in the physical classroom.

I have never considered myself technologically savvy. In fact I have always shied away from technology. Dean Stoltz-Loike, for at least two years, has been encouraging all faculty members to have Zoom accounts, and although I had one, I rarely made use of it. Whenever there were faculty meetings that I could not personally attend, I opted for the dial-in option, fearing that the video component was “way over my head” to navigate. Now, however, this has all changed for me, 180 degrees, and it is directly because of the proactive, highly supportive role of the College in thoroughly educating me and all its faculty in online teaching. I became so confident in setting up a Zoom class that I taught a friend of mine, a professor at another very prominent university (who had received no training in online teaching at all from her institution), how to set up her online classes from start to finish.

Student reaction has been overwhelmingly positive with a rich “classroom” experience and unobstructed learning. My students are tuned in to learn, eager to participate and have adapted almost instinctively. I email them their source sheets in advance of the class and share texts, images and websites with them directly on my screen. In order to avoid lecturing and encourage student interaction, I ask my students to unmute themselves (yes, you heard me) so that they feel free to chime in whenever they wish to add a comment or ask a question. I have found this to be the best way to recreate the open environment of my real classroom in the virtual landscape.

I am very grateful to Touro and its prescient president, Dr. Kadish, whose foresight allowed us to prepare for the change to online instruction even before the crisis hit and mandatory shutdowns became the norm. While the current outbreak of Coronavirus has left much tragedy in its wake, the silver lining of this storm cloud, at least from an academic standpoint, has been the successful transition of our faculty to an online platform. It has allowed higher education to continue unabated and brighten the future of our next generation.