College of Science

Adjusting to the ‘new normal’ on first day of in-person teaching


The University’s transition to in-person teaching this past Monday went well even with the predictable hiccups. Although some instructors have been using on-campus classrooms since the first day of classes in August, Monday marked the day a total of 186 instructors provided face-to-face and online teaching from 137 of the more than 400 retrofitted classrooms.

While fewer than 20 issues were reported Monday, throughout the first week back, the Provost’s Office plans to make necessary adjustments to continuously improve the classroom experiences of students and instructors.

A professor starting class.
Jason Brown arriving well ahead of his 12:20 class to prepare the classroom in Daniel to teach his Physics class.

A senior lecturer in Physics, Jason Brown, is among those faculty who have been teaching from his assigned classroom in Daniel Hall since the beginning of the Fall semester. “I have some previous experience teaching online,” said Brown, who shared he’d started teaching some courses using online platforms as early as 2011. “While it takes some getting used to, one of the benefits is students use the chat feature to engage me and their fellow classmates significantly more.”

Brown shared that peer-to-peer learning has increased from years past and for him examinations have become easier to proctor. As he readied his classroom and checked his technology to start his 12:20 class, Brown admitted that class prep takes more time.

“Of course, the schedules were established with a 15-minute break between classes,” stated Brown. “Campus is big, so depending on where your classes are being taught, instructors teaching back-to-back classes might find things tough.”

Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies John Griffin noted a team had worked behind the scenes to anticipate back-to-back classes. “In some cases, students and instructors with tight schedules saw a change to their schedules,” said Griffin. “Often the instructor’s office and classroom locations were considered too.”

Like many institutions of higher education, Clemson needed to make major investments to successfully transition to hybrid teaching. So far, the University has spent several millions of dollars to enable a holistic, in-person, telework and distance learning model. Investments in technology to retrofit 400 classrooms offered instructors and students effective digital tools. Millions more were invested in personal protective equipment, compliance and other COVID-19-related responses. Further investments are anticipated.

Across campus, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy Joan Marler watched students arrive to her class and chuckled because she was going to be teaching directly under a Fike scoreboard.

A teacher teaching in a recreation facility during COVID-19.
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Joan Marler watches students arrive to her class. Perhaps making Fike Field House history, Marler will teach her Astronomy 1020 class stationed directly under a Fike scoreboard.

Fike G07 had been retrofitted to handle class sizes like her Astronomy 1020. Marler was confident in the technology and things were going well as she started her session on Measuring Distances with Light Years.

“When I was teaching from home we suffered a little from slow internet. I don’t have that here, and Clemson’s done a good job. The only problem I face is staying in the camera’s sight lines for those joining us outside the classroom. I like to teach using activities,” said Marler, pointing to a bag of props on the floor near the technology table. “I’ve got to make sure all the students can see the full activity.”

A professor teaching in an auditorium.
Students physically distance as Associate Professor Alexey Vertegel starts his Bioengineering 3020 class in the Strom Thurmond Auditorium.

During Monday’s transition to in-person learning, at times students appeared in a classroom setting and the instructor was teaching them from a remote location. Instructors determine the teaching modality and have been asked to provide students information about how their courses will be taught no later than Oct. 2.

In the Strom Thurmond Institute’s auditorium, the Department of Bioengineering’s Alexey Vertegel was being assisted by Clemson Online’s team as he started his first in-person class of BIOE 3020. Instructors must navigate the facility’s technology and success takes some time.

“Two years ago, if someone had sent me a picture of how I’d be teaching on Sept. 21, 2020, I’d say, ‘This is pretty scary.’ Now it’s the new normal, and it’s nothing we can’t get through,” said Vertegel.

With his class finally under way, Vertegel welcomed all the students online and in person.  “Someday you will be telling your grandchildren about today and how you were in college during the pandemic,” he told his students.

Teacher joins class from his remote location during COVID-19.
A professor joins a class virtually for MATH 2060 being taught in the College of Business’ new auditorium.
Two administrators assist during COVID-19 and the transfer to in-person teaching.
Trouble shooters and problem solvers – Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies John Griffin visits with Clemson Online’s Anne Marie Rogers during his spot checks around Clemson’s main campus.
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