An incredible ask

Goshen College professors in the history; Bible and religion; and peace, justice and conflict studies departments meet for a morning tea time over Zoom. (Photo provided by Keith Graber Miller)

In this strange time we are surrounded by so many unprecedented acts of love. In March, we became certain that the deadly COVID-19 virus was being invisibly transmitted in our broader community. In a matter of days, we asked our residential students to move home, and faculty were asked to make an abrupt change from teaching in person to teaching through technology.

I remember, in that week of transition, being on an early Zoom meeting with Professor Regina Shands Stoltzfus when one of her senior students stopped by her office to say goodbye before moving home. Her sadness was palpable.

This transition to online learning was as sudden and unwelcome for teachers as it has been for students.

Last week I reached out to a few of those involved in this massive undertaking and asked them to convey something of their experiences to us:

Erin Milanese, Head of Learning Technologies:

“Our normal process for moving a course online is 3-4 months for a (single!) course — so to do this all at once and with limited support is an incredible ask for faculty as most have little to no experience with remote teaching. Transitioning a course online is a lot of work; to do multiple courses at once in such a short amount of time is an almost impossible task.”

David Housman, Faculty Chair, Professor and Chair of Mathematics and Computing

“The biggest changes for me were the number of hours spent in front of a computer screen preparing more detailed notes to share with students, holding Zoom classes, making sure classes were recorded and the videos available for students who could not come to class at the regularly scheduled time, and holding Zoom office hours. . . . Before transition, I was devoting about 60 hours per week to academics. After transition, I have been devoting about 85 hours per week to academics.”

Mary Rose Norell, Director of Community School of the Arts

“I didn’t expect that seeing [my students] again — even over a computer screen — would bring so much joy! It really reinforces my belief in the special and unique bond of the student-teacher relationship, and reminds me that we teachers are so fortunate to have this mentoring connection with a non-family member at a time like this.”

Ann Vendrely, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean

“There is so much to say about the GC faculty response to this that I hardly know where to begin. When we made an announcement at the end of the week about moving classes to an online format, many faculty jumped on the opportunity and converted their courses to an online and virtual delivery OVER THE WEEKEND! We canceled classes the next week so they could develop some materials and they were ready to go. They showed amazing flexibility in imagining a different delivery method and were eager to try new things.”

There are many definitions of love, and one I often return to is that of author, educator and activist bell hooks: love is the will to extend one’s self for the sake of another’s growth.

Teaching through this transition has been one great act of love on the part of Goshen’s faculty.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Rebecca Stoltzfus