Faculty use humor, creativity to connect with students online

Posted on April 02, 2020

Dr. Mitch Croatt hawaiian shirt compilation
Dr. Mitch Croatt of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is wearing a different Hawaiian shirt for each chapter he posts online to his Organic Chemistry class.

A professor wears a different Hawaiian shirt for each organic chemistry lecture he uploads online. Another professor dances flamenco for her Spanish students. A psychology instructor uses her own four-legged friend to demonstrate “Pavlov’s dog” theory of classical conditioning.

Within one week, UNC Greensboro transitioned 98 percent of its classes online to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The move has not been without its challenges. On-campus students were required to vacate their residences quickly. Many efforts have also been made to help students who lack stable internet connections and equipment.  Faculty, students and staff alike are adjusting to new work environments while missing the connections of friends and coworkers.

Yet the circumstances have also inspired instructors to get creative in an effort to calm anxiety for their students, keep topics engaging and maintain some semblance of connection.

Here is just sampling of how they’re doing it:


Dr. Mitch Croatt is wearing a different Hawaiian shirt for each chapter he posts online to his organic chemistry class. “Full disclosure, I’m not sure if this is more for me or the students,” Croatt said.

An Interior Architecture class held a “Quirky Thursday Attire”-themed discussion session. Most chose to “wear” their pets. “My students have been opening up about feeling unmotivated and about the lack of structure and certainty in their lives,” said Professor Nisha Prasad. “I think we got everyone back to feeling like a studio team today.”

Instructor Allie Campbell received help from her dog-assistant, Damon, to explain “Pavlov’s dog” theories of classical and operant conditioning to a psychology class.

For her Classical Mythology class of 175 students, Dr. Robyn Le Blanc produced a “Six Degrees of Achilles” video to discuss the interconnectedness of characters in myth.

On her first day of online teaching, Dr. Carmen Sotomayor brought her love of flamenco to students in her Spanish classes. “My students did not know that I love Flamenco and have danced some through the years,” she said. “Their faces when they saw me in their screens were precious! I wanted to bring some humor to a very unusual and hard situation.”

An Interior Architecture design studio has been meeting outside of class to relax and have fun together. Last week during a “show-and-tell” session, one student impressed the group with his beautiful piano-playing. Nobody knew he could play piano before. “I love this picture because you can tell everyone is enjoying themselves,” said Professor Stephen Skorski. “And the shock comes through pretty clearly on a few of the faces.”



Story by Elizabeth Keri, College of Arts & Sciences

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