Along with many different schools and departments within UNC, the Hussman School of Journalism and Media is grappling with student needs and faculty concerns as the spring semester nears.
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz provided upcoming plans and dates for the spring semester in an email Friday. Among these plans are different modes of instructions for classes starting in the spring, both for in-person and online classes.
As professors and students have adjusted to remote learning, Dean of the Hussman School Susan King said the school is trying to reach out to students to understand their needs and comprehend how the current semester is progressing. With this student input, the school will work toward planning for the spring semester.
Alyssa Anderson, the Undergraduate Hub coordinator, said the final course evaluations could be helpful in determining spring planning for the Hussman School.
“We hope that students will give honest feedback on their course evaluations, and we will use that as a guide for next semester,” Anderson said. “If we need additional information we may send a survey out over winter break.”
Besides frequent faculty communication about student needs this semester, King said she also meets regularly with student ambassadors within the school who provide a student perspective on how things are going.
The Hussman School has often turned to student feedback to help with class planning, King said. Over the summer, the Hussman school reached out to over 800 students individually to figure out their preferences for fall semester classes.
Some professors at the Hussman School, like associate professor Deb Aikat, are sending mid-semester evaluations for students to complete. Aikat said these evaluations allow professors to grasp how students are handling the current semester.
Aikat said the Hussman School has been working hard to meet the needs of students since classes went remote in August.
“We decided pretty early on, like in August, that we are going to do ‘digital first,’” Aikat said. “Our school has been re-energized to provide an awesome experience to our students so that their online experience is distinctive, powerful, encouraging and engaging for all.”
Aikat said he and the rest of the faculty are trying to replicate the meaningful elements of in-person instruction in digital ways to best serve Hussman students. He said in his online classes, he has created opportunities such as documentary watch parties and interesting guest lecturers to engage students in the remote format.
Looking ahead to the spring, some students said that this is a time when student voices matter greatly.
Sophomore Cade Klimek, majoring in media and journalism, said he hopes to voice his opinion about spring semester classes.
“This is a decision that directly affects me, and I feel like I’d want to make my voice heard,” Klimek said. “I think that student voices are the most important way to decide how we want to be taught because we’re the ones actually getting the education.”
Despite the work of faculty within the Hussman School, Klimek said he still feels that remote instruction isn’t comparable to the distinctive opportunities of in-person learning.
Klimek said he decided not to take any Hussman courses this semester. Instead, he plans to concentrate on the classes for his major when he is able to take them in person.
“I have benefited in the past from journalism classes that were in person because I think the professor-to-student interaction is so important, especially in such a hands-on learning environment that the J-school offers,” Klimek said. “I’m happier to take non-career-oriented classes in the meantime if it means I’m going to get the more valuable class time in person.”
Even though some students and professors may find this remote semester hard to adapt to, Aikat said he believes that, overall, the pandemic has been useful in allowing faculty to re-examine teaching methods — something that could influence planning for the spring semester.
“I think the pandemic has made us realize how we can look within, and make some very important enhancements to the way we teach our students and the way students approach learning,” Aikat said.
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