COON RAPIDS – (April 23, 2020) – Distance learning has been a huge learning curve for teachers and students. Students were on spring break at Anoka-Ramsey Community College when the threat of a growing worldwide virus claimed the headlines.
Art Instructor Rachel Breen sensed it would be a big challenge.
“I could just feel it. The news, I could just tell something was coming,” Breen said.
Colleges closed and instructors had two week to figure out a new way to teach. It was time for instructors to pull out cameras and computers and adjust classes for learning at home.
“I didn’t sign up for teaching this course online and I’m pretty sure you didn’t sign up for taking it online either, but here we are,” Communications Professor Thomas McCarthy told students in a video from home.
It became a learning experience for everyone. Rachel Breen says she wasn’t comfortable making teaching videos of herself at first, but art classes pose special problems since much of it calls for hands-on demonstration.
“I want to help my students be successful and so I had to do stuff that I never wanted to do like taking a video of myself doing a self portrait or a landscape drawing,” Breen said.
At home, the trouble for student Casey Provo of Blaine, was lacking access to art equipment that was at school.
“I know for example half my courses I can only do at school, like glass blowing I can’t physically do that at home,” Provo said. “In drawing class I just got assigned a wall drawing which is a four foot by six foot drawing. So have fun trying to find the space to do that at home, that’s probably the most challenging.”
Esther Stoy, also of Blaine misses the personal feedback. “Like the feedback you would get from other students and peers right away and have a dialogue about your work and help each other out in person was a huge part of my education at least,” she said.
In addition to creating teaching videos, McCarthy says he answers a lot of e-mail questions and is mindful of what’s going on at home.
“Some students have both parents working from home, they have little brothers and sisters doing online school as well and it’s difficult to demand of them to all be together to all log in at the same time and do a zoom meeting,” McCarthy said.
Art courses adapt by focusing more on understanding a concept than grading a final product.
“It’s kind of hard to really be yourself online but I also think that it’s kind of the best that we have right now and for the most part I think that it’s working,” said Breen.
The college’s end-of-semester art show is moving online. You can find it on their website.