Online transition proves difficult for hands-on classes

Karina Garcia, Riptide Anchor

It’s been a few weeks since everyone at TAMU-CC has had the chance to fully participate in online learning. Many of these courses designed for an in-class setting cannot always meet or guarantee the same learning experience when put online. Because of this, both students and faculty are now sharing some of the same difficulties that come with transitioning to a fully online curriculum.

“As a professor, I want to be there for my students and help them however I can,” said Jilissa Cotten, the associate professor and Director of Dance. “The best way to do that is to communicate.”

With the tactical aspect and complexity that comes with learning and teaching dance,
Cotten explained that one of the complications she encounters is not having that face-to-face interaction.

“Sometimes we have to physically touch the dancer to help them find the proper shape or align their shoulders along with their hips, and we don’t have that capability anymore,” said Cotton. “… So, we have had to take a different perspective on how we teach online.”

Cotten said students must focus on reinforcing techniques and concepts they learned prior to the online transition.

“As a dancer, you continue to improve and perfect,” said Cotton. “… We also have spent more time teaching phrases, and combinations and different sequences of movement that they’ve learned so they can become more comfortable moving more fluidly.”

Cotten said that students submit assignments through video submissions. However, they are transitioning from a wide-spaced dancing studio to cramped spaces in their apartments, living rooms or other small areas.

Overall, it’s stressful but manageable with a bit of endurance and a lot of support.”

— Paige Woelke

“I would say 85% of my students are handling the transition to the best of their abilities,” said Cotton. “… About 15% are struggling. They either don’t have the support that they need to turn in their assignments, whether it be the technology, or Wi-Fi, or maybe they don’t have family support, maybe they have to work now or take care of family members. I think they are students who are facing challenges they wouldn’t normal have.”

“Hands-on classes now have a completely different curriculum,” said Paige Woelke, a sophomore studying Theatre and Marketing. “I believe my professors are providing the best experience they can right now.

“It’s a lot of self-discipline and time management,” Woelke continued. “… My Acting I class is now me in a room by myself recording a monologue instead of working in front of an audience or face-to-face with a director. Overall, it’s stressful but manageable with a bit of endurance and a lot of support.”

Another instructor adjusting to the transition is Alison Frost, the associate professor of Theater. She explained that she even had a guest speaker, Ben Rappaport, to help students with audition tapes by hosting a mini masterclass on self-taping.

“Overall, everybody is doing fine,” said Frost. “… I wish some of them were better at communicating on a regular basis. But I’m not living there. I don’t know what’s happening. … I know some students have been busy trying to do school, trying to work.

“I would ask students to not feel like they are wasting faculty members’ time just checking in to say, ‘Hi,’ or, ‘I received your email,’” continued Frost. “That’s really helpful because sometimes it feels like we are talking into an abyss.”

“What I tell my students on a weekly basis is that this will pass, stay strong and do the best that you can do,” said Cotten.