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Creighton faculty share thoughts on return to in-person learning

Students in a law school lectureAs Creighton University returns to in-person learning for the fall 2020 semester, many faculty members say they’re glad to be able to once again connect with students in the classroom.

“I wanted to have class in person, even with masks and socially distanced, because I think it’s important to see my students and be with them, and that’s just how I teach,” says Carol Zuegner, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, Design & Journalism in the College of Arts and Sciences. “There’s been a learning curve, but the first day went really well, I thought.”

Creighton has adopted a number of preventive measures on campus in light of COVID-19. Classroom, laboratory and other building spaces have been examined to determine the maximum capacity of each room based on public health guidance on social distancing. Students, faculty and staff are also required to wear face coverings in all public spaces, including classrooms and labs.

“It’s the first day of masked and socially distanced classes (with parallel remote learning) @CreightonLaw,” School of Law Dean Joshua Fershée, JD, tweeted earlier this month. “It’s rather unusual, but it’s great to be around our new and returning students, even if we have to be at least 6 feet apart.”

Zuegner is teaching two classes this semester, both with an online and in-person component. To prepare for the fall term, she surveyed her incoming students about how they prefer to learn. In several cases, she heard back from students who told her they learn best in an in-person environment and looked forward to being back in the classroom.

“Because my method of teaching is kind of coaching, it’s always better to have the student there,” Zuegner says. “I told the students I was going to be patient and flexible, and I asked for the same from them.”

Anastasia Kyvelidou, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, is currently preparing for her first on-campus class of the semester, which begins August 25. The course, Evidence-Based Practice, consists of about 80 students.

“That kind of discussion is very different when you’re teaching online versus in person,” Kyvelidou says. “In person, you have the opportunity to be much more engaged with students during the lecture, to read their body language and behavior and see how they’re responding to the lesson.”

Kandis McCafferty, PhD, associate professor in the College of Nursing, says her first week of in-person learning has gone smoothly so far. Her students quickly adjusted to the new social distancing measures, selecting seats, properly spaced from one other, where they will remain for the duration of the semester. As students enrolled in a health care program, they are equipped with face shields, which they bring to class in addition to their cloth face coverings, McCafferty says. Any time students come within 6 feet of someone, they know to put on the face shields.

McCafferty, who also serves as director of the College of Nursing’s simulation lab, says meeting in-person is critical for the clinical experience many of her students are engaged in.

“We can do it online, as we did in the spring semester, but it’s much more effective for those students to actually place their stethoscopes on a mannequin or on a patient,” she says.

Overall, Zuegner says returning to in-person learning reflects Creighton’s mission of building a strong University community.

“One of the most important elements of the Creighton experience is building community, and the best way we can do that, I think, is being face-to-face,” she says, “even if those faces are masked.”

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