In Person to Online Teaching: Learning How to Teach Via Zoom
By Dr. Paul Krivonos, ACE Board Member, Emeritus Professor of Communication Studies at California State University Northridge
ACE Board member Dr. Krivonos is an experienced teaching professional. However, online teaching with Zoom was a learning moment for him. Here is Paul’s story.
Although I have previously taught online, it was always a planned endeavor, and never on Zoom. Back in March 2020, I had to make a very quick, though bumpy transition from in person to online teaching. I was scheduled to teach an eight-week intensive course on Organization Theory and Behavior in the California State University (CSUN) Northridge Master of Public Relations program. Even though the cohort was to meet at an off-campus site, it was still scheduled to be an in-person experience.
At the beginning of March, CSUN decided to move all on-campus classes to online via Zoom. Like everyone else in education (and almost all other fields), I had to quickly adapt from what was comfortable to a new normal as I never had an in-person session with a class.
Holding a class over Zoom was an interesting experience, both for me and for the students. Because I use quite a few experiential exercises to illustrate behavior in organizational settings, I had to rethink that aspect of the course. I did not want to completely eliminate such class interactions, but many of the ones I use in person were not easy to adapt to the online environment. What did work well was putting students in small groups of four to five people and present them with a topic, question, scenario, or case study to discuss and report back to the class as a whole. Students also found this group interaction valuable and enjoyable based on a written informal survey at the end of the course.
Interestingly though, they found an advantage in getting to know their classmates as they would normally arrive prior to class and leave when class finished. Now, because they did not have to spend time commuting to class, they would “arrive” early. I opened the Zoom session 15-20 minutes before class started and would leave the Zoom session open until students had finished chatting with one another after class.
That desire to get to know their classmates was also evidenced in their feedback about small group interactions that occurred during breakout groups during class. As previously mentioned, I adapted to making sure to include experiential experiences was to include guided breakout sessions. An additional advantage from the students’ perspective was that it gave them an additional opportunity to get to know one another better.
Overall, the transition from what was to have been an in-person class to an online class was as much work, though of a different nature, as face-to-face teaching. It also meant that I was able to learn from my successes and missteps so that the next time I taught an online class, it was more effective and satisfying than one where I had to mentally move from anticipating an in-person class to teaching a virtual one.