Because this fall semester is looking so different and comes at a historical moment, we have asked our faculty and students how their first few weeks are going and how they have responded to the challenges.
Stephen Burnett is teaching "Judaism, Christianity, and Islam" (RELG 181) and "Israel the Holy Land" (RELG 217) this semester.
"I think that my classes have gone fairly well this fall because of very intensive preparation last summer. I have been forced to become much more deliberate in setting goals for student learning and picking the means for doing so. By preparing voiceover powerpoint lectures for both classes in advance of instruction weeks, I have been able to free up my face to face interactions with my [RELG] 217 students for class discussion of texts. RELG 181 I am teaching as an online only class, and that seems to be going well too. In both classes I am still learning the weekly routine of class preparation that I need to maintain, even after preparing the weekly lectures ahead of time. Overall I have found my classes to be stimulating to teach."
Burnett says that a highlight has been that, "I have enjoyed the face to face discussions that I have had with my [RELG] 217 students. Since I have already decided on what material I want to lecture on and put it on Canvas for my students to view and hear when convenient, I am under no pressure to "cover the material". The discussion period really is for them to learn, discuss, and ask me questions."
Morgan Palmer is teaching "The Roman Empire" (CLAS 317), "Latin Prose" (LATN 301), and "Elementary Latin" (LATN 101).
"The enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity of my students is inspiring, and it is wonderful that they are eager to keep learning about ancient Rome during this unprecedented time. It's great to see students working hard and continuing to pursue their goals while Zooming and social distancing. I'm excited to keep reading Latin with them and to work with them on their original projects about ancient Roman history."
Mike Lippman is teaching "Sparta" (CLAS 222), "Ancient Greece" (CLAS 209), and "Greek Prose" (GREK 301) this semester.
"Fortunately, I am teaching online, which I think is the only right answer given the circumstances. I teach live and synchronously, and it is working better than expected."
Lippman says the highlight of his first couple weeks is that, "Students, perhaps because they had a long time to be stuck doing little, are particularly engaged, attending regularly and seem interested in material. Many 'hang back' in the Zoom Room to talk after class ends, and my office hours are as crowded as during live classes. So, considering the situation, I am quite pleased. Live is better, but during COVID, synchronous online seems best."
Our students have given a lot of varied feedback on how they feel about the first half of this semster, ranging from how online classes are impacting them, to how professors are helping class feel normal, to the ways safety measures are affecting social life and sense of community.
"A lot of the work is done off of your own initiative and course readings."
"I have not felt inconvenienced by the transition to online learning (or by having a partial schedule of in-person classes). ...Plus, I'm keeping up in classwork and getting exemplary grades."
"Discussion boards are also incredibly tedious. I get that they are meant to simulate in-class discussion, but I feel that they are more trouble than they are worth."
"I have enjoyed being back in the realm of classics, even remotely. Content and structure have been good, and my professors are doing their best to encourage participation and interest."
"Dr. Hart has been working with technology and her students' needs to deliver easy to follow lectures that incorporate both in person students and the students participating over Zoom."
"It has been more difficult to figure out how all my classes work this semester than most because all of my classes are doing things differently and many expectations have been in flux."
"I was very much looking forward to being active on campus and interacting with my peers so the online classes are a bummer."
"Asynchronous online courses are essentially a very expensive book club, they are a burden and not a worthwhile experience that encourages learning."
"It's been weird, but I feel like I'm successful in the current environment."
"In class is fine and it is good to see the pandemic being taken seriously."
We are thrilled to see that professors are making all the difference for some of our students.
"Both [Sparta and Intro to Law] are taught by professors that are knowledgeable and passionate about what they are teaching. This passion is passed on to their students."
"Having a couple of professors who are very committed to person-first language (which I am referring to as an exemplification of the attitude from which it comes) ...Very cool people."
"I am infinitely fascinated by all of my classes this semester—I truly enjoy each of my professors and our discussions over course material. As much as I'm hesitant about the logistics of school under COVID-19, I am so excited to be learning again!"
"The organization of professor Lippman's class has been a highlight in an otherwise confusing time."
"Literally my Greek course with [Prof. Lippman] because it's actually synchronous, and it puts me in a good mood even if I'm struggling."
Several students talked about community and new friendships as the highlight of this semester. We are so happy to hear that our students are doing well maintaining a personal community in the context of this pandemic and the necessary safety measures.
"I've really enjoyed seeing how the community has been able to adapt to new circumstances and how flexible a lot of people have been in order to accommodate the changing state of the world."
"I joined a fraternity and meeting these boys has been a blast and hanging out with them has been very fun."
"Seeing some of my friends and learning about things I'm interested in."
"Classics Club, one of the few opportunities I've gotten to be social."
"Seeing classmates on a normal schedule during my synchronous classes."
"I went ice skating with some friends as a Big Red Welcome Event."
"Coming back to school and hanging out with friends."
"Eating at Qdoba. Movie nights with my roommates."
"Experiencing campus and meeting new people."
"Meeting new people and making friends."
"Meeting new friends."
"Meeting new people."
Jake H., Juliana C., Walker G.
While professors make all the difference for some, just having good experiences in class and loving the subject material is a highlight for others.
"The highlight of my first few weeks has been coming back to UNL and feeling at home in the classics department once more, even if we're not all in the same space."
"Getting back into an academic focused mindset and attending classes on Zoom, and of course being centered back in Ancient Rome."
"Learning ancient Greek, and beginning my computer science senior design project."
"I really enjoy getting to take a couple classics classes this semester!"
"Being able to discuss Greek mythology again."
"Taking classes that I thoroughly enjoy."
And then there are all those little everyday things that can sometimes make everything seem better.
"Getting a hang of how to manage my course work and figure out freshman year successfully."
"I got my undergraduate thesis approved."
"I like how the semester started for me. I felt as if the first week of asynchronous learning eased me back into college life, making it easier to adjust to the changes in the semester."
"Staying in the dorm for some classes and going in for others."
"Finally getting to go back to in person class again."
"Being back in the classrooms and library."
"I got 113% on my first college exam."
"I'm doing well in all of my classes."
"Being able to do lessons in person."
"Getting a Qdoba in Selleck."
"In person class when able."