Faculty Insights: A Zoom Boom for Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Contact: Kelly Depsee
Director, Communications and External Relations
973-200-1099
KME@BerkeleyCollege.edu

FACULTY INSIGHTS: A ZOOM BOOM FOR EDUCATION 

I am among the faculty who have long inhabited both educational realms, a daily cyberspace educational presence and a traditional classroom presence. To me, an affirmative educational connection between instructor and student comes as a gift born of interaction, whether onsite or online.” 

Gregory Hotchkiss

By: Gregory Hotchkiss, ThD
Co-Chair, Humanities and Social Sciences, Berkeley College School of Liberal Arts 

The virus came quickly, pushing us apart. Classrooms emptied. Campuses closed. Distance became duty. Homebound the norm. 

And education had to change, or more accurately, educators. The COVID – the inhuman – forced tradition-bound educators into cyberspace learning. The same for students who long eschewed the online for the onsite. 

Weeks ago, during an Introduction to Ethics class, my Berkeley College students and I discussed the likelihood we might soon become an online class because of COVID-19. They understood but were not all happy. I asked them to stick with me because online should not mean lack of the personal, loss of presence, or the absence of educational support. Not at all. 

And we’re using Zoom to help the transition. Call it Tuesdays with Hotchkiss – just an opportunity to connect with my students via Zoom. It’s not required. Zoom can’t replace the classroom, but it can help bridge a felt distance between faculty and student. Although many students using Zoom do not have or activate a computer camera, and others only join by phoning in, each modality provides a presence. 

And Zoom is serving up surprises. One of my faculty shared the following about Zooming with his students: “While processing the key concepts on Animal Rights in Ethics, I discovered that there are many dogs that get better treatment than I do. Our canine friends opened our eyes to the love and acceptance that some students come home to.” 

Similarly, another professor said that when she heard a dog barking in the background, she suggested sharing pets via Zoom. “Students really enjoyed it, and it helped everyone get a little more comfortable with the technology.” 

Via Zoom, another said she got to meet a student’s mother, and another’s high school-age sister.

And one shared a Zoom insight from his students: “I learned that it was important for the participating students to share their personal stories, ask pertinent questions, and reconnect as a class virtually.” 

In a recent Tuesday Zoom meeting, I received a special gift from one student. We were sharing some of our current challenges when suddenly two little faces popped up behind mommy. “These are my two girls,” she said. And I suddenly felt connected as I never could without digital reality. The wonderful gift of presence in the home of a student with her children! 

I am among the faculty who have long inhabited both educational realms, a daily cyberspace educational presence and a traditional classroom presence. To me, an affirmative educational connection between instructor and student comes as a gift born of interaction, whether onsite or online. Our task now is to show our onsite students how good a Berkeley online education can also be. Zoom is helping the transition for some. Others are doing fine online without Zoom. Others, no doubt, are struggling, as students do onsite or online. 

Zoom is an additive to online education. The temptation for onsite faculty is to think Zoom is the new classroom. That’s a mistake. Zoom can help. It’s a form of presence. But presence in online education is much more complex, more multifaceted, and asynchronously more extensive than Zoom synchronicity can deliver. 

Digital technology provides a COVID-free connection space to offset some of our distancing. COVID can’t go virtual. But we can. Berkeley entirely has! And education continues.

Student Walisa Reid and class

Photo Captions: (Top) Gregory Hotchkiss, ThD, Co-Chair, Humanities and Social Sciences, Berkeley College School of Liberal Arts, conducts his class from home during the coronavirus COVID-19 public health crisis. (Above) Berkeley College student Walisa Reid speaks during her Social Justice Issues class that meets via Zoom.

About Gregory Hotchkiss, ThD
Dr. Hotchkiss has been a professor at Berkeley College since 2006 and has served as Co-Chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department in the School of Liberal Arts since 2011. His areas of expertise include philosophy, religion and moral values, among other topics. Dr. Hotchkiss holds a Doctor of Theology in Anglican Studies from General Theological Seminary; two Masters’ degrees, one in Theology from Princeton Seminary and the other in Divinity from Reformed Episcopal Seminary; and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Thomas Edison State University.

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