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With many students in isolation due to COVID-19, professors adapt teaching methods

With 646 positive COVID-19 cases among students from the week of Jan. 24 to Jan. 30 alone, many Duke students are being forced to isolate themselves from their peers while attempting to keep up with coursework. Some professors offer course recordings or synchronous Zoom participation options, while others provide no accommodations. 

Ashutosh Kotwal, ​​Fritz London distinguished professor of physics, is offering a hybrid teaching format. Students are permitted to Zoom into synchronous class sessions, and recordings are posted on Sakai for students to access later.

“I wanted everyone to have access to me in class in almost the same way as best as I could,” Kotwal said. Kotwal said that he has not received any negative feedback from his students but acknowledges there are downsides to learning from home, as there is no way to truly recreate the classroom environment online.

He added that not seeing students in person prevents him from successfully gauging whether they are understanding the material. 

On the other hand, history doctoral candidate Anderson Hagler, who is also an instructor in the history department, does not record his classes or allow students to Zoom into his class. However, Hagler is flexible with students in isolation. He offers alternative assignments and is now considering ways to make student assessments as accessible as possible.

While neither of these professors have received any indication their students are falling behind, students have reported mixed experiences with staying on top of schoolwork while isolating.

For first-year Valencia Hochberg, coming back from quarantine was a lot of “trying to piece together what [she] missed.”

“I didn't fully understand what I had learned,” Hochberg said.

She added that while only one of her classes offered a Zoom option, all of her professors have been very understanding and helpful overall.

First-year Karina Marinovich also expressed having some difficulties learning away from the classroom, feeling “very frustrated” at the time. However, she noted that her professors have been considerate and she is able to Zoom into half of her classes. Her other classes offer online resources as a replacement.


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