With finals week looming over the horizon, I find myself imagining what the end of the spring semester might have been like if we were still at school. I would be savoring the spring weather in New Brunswick while eagerly looking forward to visiting home in the weeks before my summer internship, debating whether I should study for my exams or prematurely enjoy my newfound freedom from coursework. I'd take a moment to fill out Student Instructional Rating Surveys for my professors and declare a (hopefully) successful end to my first year at university.
Obviously, that vision is a far cry from finishing virtual classes at my parents' house during a global pandemic, but, nevertheless, I still have those Student Instructional Rating Surveys to complete. As I reflect on my courses from this semester, I'm coming to realize just how generous and adaptable some of my professors have proved themselves to be in the wake of this global crisis... while recognizing that others didn't take to the transition as well. Here are seven (not mutually exclusive) types of professors we've all had to deal with in an age of impromptu online instruction.
The professor plagued by technical difficulties
Maybe it's because the professor has never taught a virtual course before. Maybe it's because they're trying to accommodate hundreds of students on the same virtual meeting platform. Either way, this is the professor that ends up having to give everyone full points on virtual quizzes in which the graphics didn't show up properly, or perhaps the one you have to rely on email communications to understand because their audio keeps cutting out during class. (That is, of course, assuming your professor checks their email regularly to answer student questions.) Still, you have to cut them some slack: the issues aren't their fault, and most of them are making a sincere effort to work around the occasional problem, even if that entails calling tech support every class period. Of the steps we've to take to adapt, this is the one that all of us have the least control over.
The professor who is just as stressed as you are
Let's admit it: the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is both frightening and heartbreaking, and it's perfectly understandable to feel anxious or upset during these difficult times. We've all been trying to cope in whatever ways we can, even as we continue taking virtual classes - or teaching them, in the case of these professors. Some of them put on a brave face for their students, but others aren't ashamed to openly admit that they're nervous about what this might mean for themselves or their loved ones. Depending on what kind of student you happen to be, such admissions can be comforting or distressing, but either way, we should take these professors as reminders that in the end, we're all in this together.
The professor who is just as angry as you are
This is the professor equivalent of the student who goes on Reddit and rages over the fact that their instructors wouldn't just give them an "A" for the rest of the semester. They weren't prepared to make the virtual transition and are furious that they're being forced to convert to an entirely new platform for learning on such short notice. Some of them may make this very clear during your virtual class sessions; others may just quietly simmer or direct their misgivings towards their higher-ups. This can definitely be uncomfortable for you as a student - especially if they go so far as to imply that such measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have been gross overreactions - but you can at least appreciate where they're coming from. You definitely would prefer to be taking classes in person, too, and working online can be genuinely frustrating. You may even be afraid that this sort of virtual instruction could become the new normal, but at least you know this professor won't take that sort of change sitting down!
The professor who was already ready for the virtual transition
This was the professor who, two or three weeks before your university shut down, casually let you know that they "would be prepared if we ever have to take this class completely online." With more foresight than most world governments, they were probably developing contingency plans as soon as COVID-19 made its first confirmed appearance in Washington state. Their transition to online instruction may not have been without its challenges, but their comparatively calm response to the news that there would be no in-person classes was something of a bright spot in the initial chaos of the transition - that, or you were one of the students who was hoping the pandemic would guarantee you an automatic 'A'.
The professor who gives their students A LOT of leeway
This professor fully recognizes that the current global and academic situation may prevent their students from getting work done - on time or at all - and tries to make as many adjustments as possible to accommodate them. Towards the middle of this spectrum lie the instructors that are simply providing more extra credit and flexible deadlines than they might have if you were still at school, but at the far end, you have the professors who have declared you can keep whatever grade you had before spring break (or perhaps went even further by giving you that free "A" that so many students were aggressively lobbying for). Perhaps they've extended deadlines to the point where you're no longer sure when anything is due or made so many alterations to final projects that you can't be completely certain if you're doing the "easier" version correctly. All the same, you have to appreciate their willingness to make so many adjustments on your behalf and their empathy for what you might be going through - we need that kind of understanding in these trying times, even if it may sometimes produce mixed results.
The professor who says they want to give their students some leeway, but then does the exact opposite
This professor claims to fully recognize that the current global and academic situation may prevent their students from getting work done and promises to make as many adjustments as possible to accommodate them... but subsequently fails to follow through. This is the professor that reassures you that they can be more flexible with due dates while actually meaning you'll only earn half points on a late assignment instead of no points at all. This is the professor that says, "You can always put my class second if you're struggling," before reminding you that doing so will have dire impacts on your ability to eke out a passing grade. Though definitely one of the most frustrating types of instructors during this pandemic, you at least grudgingly recognize that they want to understand what their students are going through; they just don't know how to accommodate them without compromising their ability to teach all of the material.
The professor who is doing their best
Ultimately, though some may have responded better than others to the virtual transition, I'm thankful to all of my professors for having done their best to make a difficult adjustment in the middle of the semester. Being able to continue my education in the during this pandemic has truly been a blessing, and it would not have been possible without them. Even if I can't express my appreciation in person, I hope they all stay safe and healthy this summer so that we can meet again this fall!