UTEP College of Engineering Professor Shares Experience with Teaching Online During Pandemic
Anahy Diaz | June 22, 2020
Calvin M. Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso, shares his experience with online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stewart is one of many faculty who have had to adjust to online classes since the university announced its transition to virtual operations for the remainder of the Spring semester in March of 2020.
Although new to the transition, Stewart has some experience with online teaching, as he has been using online tools since he began teaching at UTEP in 2013. He has done this by applying the flipped classroom concept, where he makes his lectures available on YouTube and focuses on problem solving activities in class.
“Students enjoy the ability to re-watch lectures when they need them,” Stewart said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, I've started to record a new series of example videos for Statics. Thus far, I have produced 59 videos for Statics. Using YouTube analytics, I am able to see in real-time who is watching the videos and reply to comments and questions as they arise.”
These online videos have allowed Stewart to not only teach his group of students, but also impact students outside of the UTEP community by making them available on a public platform for anyone seeking to learn the material.
“Being able to see my content impact UTEP students has been amazing, but also, seeing how this content impacts students around the world makes me believe it is the right thing to do,” Stewart said.
Although rewarding, Stewart acknowledges some challenges exist in the transition. One of them is having to create online content that is as compelling as in-person lectures.
“In-person lectures are almost like a performance, where your body language, facial expression, and tone have an impact on the way that students absorb the content,” Stewart said. “In a lecture video, you must have the same energy but without the in-person feedback from students.”
Students, of course, have also had to make their own transition into a digital learning space. In order to keep up with assignments and the new learning dynamic, Stewart recommends students set up deadline reminders on their phones and frequently check for new content published by their instructor.
“It is tough to learn from home, let alone during a pandemic,” Stewart said. “Try to remain engaged in the course. Ask questions using online office hours or emails. Use social media to engage with your classmates and study online together. Go on LIVE together! Make studying the thing to do!”
Stewart also emphasized the importance of being united and supportive of one another as a UTEP community during these uncertain times.
“Everyone needs to be understanding,” Stewart said. “This pandemic has impacted the UTEP family: students, teacher assistants, staff, faculty, and their families. We are in this thing together. El Paso Strong.”