WKU English Rises to the Top Even in Extraordinary Times
- Author: Ted Hovet
- Author: Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
The shift of classes to distance delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for WKU English faculty and students. English classes are characterized by a productive intellectual exchange that takes place in the classroom through lectures, discussions, workshops, and other personal connections among instructors and students. In recent years, many English faculty have gained expertise in transforming these exchanges for some classes into a “virtual” milieu through online teaching. But the good majority of WKU English classes build their learning outcomes around face-to-face experiences, and English students continue to thrive in the traditional classroom.
Yet in these extraordinary times the WKU English faculty have risen to the challenge to deliver quality instruction and to transform course material and assignments to an online format – all while providing support for students who have had to make tremendous personal and academic adjustments in a short amount of time.
Nearly 100 students from across English classes (Colonnade to advanced) responded to a voluntary survey with specific praise for their instructors. Here is a sampling of their comments (edited for length):
“My professor always goes above and beyond for her students and shows her compassion through her actions.”
“My professor’s top priority is his students’ well-being.”
“My professor cares about her students and makes sure we still get the same education as we would in person.”
“No matter what, my professor always has a positive attitude and I truly believe she enjoys and cares for her students and their success.”
“My professor has provided the same quality of instruction, and I still feel like I am learning as much as I did in the in person class.”
‘My professor provides feedback and recommendations of the same quality that we would get in a face to face class.”
One comment is worth quoting in full, as it captures many of these sentiments while mentioning some of specific strategies English faculty have used in this transition:
“My English professors have been fabulous through all this. They make sure there are opportunities to check in on Zoom every week if you need it and are flexible if you need help, which is very reassuring in this weird adjustment period. They also send emails regularly to remind us about deadlines, but not so many that it's overwhelming. Most importantly, they always make sure that we're all doing okay personally and try and put a positive spin on things. It's really nice to know that in a time when it's really easy to be anxious, there are professors still doing their best to make sure we're able to succeed in class while giving us room to breathe and get used to our new normal.”
We have also supported each other. In addition to the resources and workshops offered by the university, English faculty with online experience have conducted virtual meetings for colleagues on how best to adopt a variety of online teaching tools. A Blackboard site created by English instructors has been remarkably active with detailed conversations and shared resources on topics such as online teaching strategies, developing online assignments and activities, creating course calendars, running virtual discussions, and developing final exams. Valuable materials have been shared by everyone from graduate students to full professors, helping to maintain a strong sense of community even when we cannot all be in Cherry Hall.
The English faculty looks forward to returning to classroom teaching, and we will do so with a wider array of tools and experiences and with an even higher appreciation of the collegiality of our department. Most importantly we will do so knowing that we have maintained strong standards of learning, care, and support for our students. WKU English will once again rise from a challenge and earn its status at as a department at the very top of the Hill.