Voices: Pitzer Faculty Reimagining the Virtual Classroom
This fall, Professor Budischak is teaching Disease Ecology and Evolution. Is there any topic more relevant at this time? In this course students will interview members of their communities to find out what they want and need to know about Covid-19. Then, they will engage with scholarly research and devise various presentation strategies to communicate their findings back to those communities.
Meeting this Moment: scholarship and service
“As a class, we’ll dig into the scientific literature to help answer these questions, and then I’m going to let students pick how they want to disseminate that. Do they want to make a YouTube video? Do they want to write a letter to the editor? Do they want to hold a forum for their community and think about how they can take what they’re learning in these classes…to figure out how help address people’s questions and have these dialogues with people in the community about the pandemic.”
Meeting this Moment: innovation
“Our physics professors are sending kits to build a catapult and sensors to record the data on that. So people are really thinking about it. They’re making boxes, some of them, but they’re really thinking outside the box on how to do science lab education well, and they’re really excited about what they have come up with.”
Meeting this Moment: innovation
“I think students are actually going to get a better science education because we’re not focused just on the doing, which is only one step in the scientific process, but they’re really going to get to think more about the whole scientific process. How do we come up with questions? How do we analyze data? How do we visualize data results?”
Given my experience, I had a feeling that we weren’t coming back a bit before my students did. So I was able that last week of class, to give an entire lecture about the pandemic, and this virus and where it came from, what it means and how we can slow spread. And I told them, we probably won’t be back after spring break, and it came as a shock to a lot of them.
Disease ecology and evolution is an upper level course. So this is what I do, this is my field of study, and it is just becoming so relevant to much more of the world than it has been in the past. So my students will work with me to figure out what are some of these questions that they have, that their family members have, that their community has about the virus? What is real information and what is not and why are these predictions wrong? Or do we trust them? Do we not? What do we know about this virus, and then as a class, we’ll dig into the scientific literature to help answer these questions. And then I’m going to let students pick how they want to disseminate that. Do they want to make a YouTube video? Do they want to write a letter to the editor? Do they want to hold a community forum.
The real issue is having office hours and students can access them. I’m going to be using an online tool so students can sign up for one-on-one appointments with me when it works best for them. I also want to have open hours; these are times I’m available to students and I really want to signal that anyone can come and drop in and learn from each other and hear each other’s questions on stuff; it doesn’t have to be the intimidating one-on-one if that’s also not their favorite.
Labs at the end of last semester, are nothing like labs are going to be this year. Faculty are coming up with fantastic ideas where students get to design experiments or are actually going to be involved in the faculty member’s research and be on published scientific papers, or are engaging with communities elsewhere around the world to do citizen science projects where people are going out and monitoring traffic patterns to look at air quality for environmental chemistry, or physics professors are sending kits to build a catapult and sensors to record the data on that. So people are really thinking about it; their making boxes, some, but they’re really thinking outside the box. It’s really opening up so many possibilities. And I think students are actually going to get a better science education because they’re really going to get to think more about the whole scientific process.