Theater professor addresses online changes

Courtesy | GVSU

Mackenzie Keller, Staff Writer

With only a few days to transition from face-to-face learning to online classes, many teachers are scrambling to alter their lesson plans. No matter how hard they try, some classes weren’t built for independent learning.

Like countless other professors, theatre professor Scott Harman is struggling with the adaptation.

My two Acting classes at Grand Valley (will be the hardest to transition).” Harman said. “So much of what we teach in acting is about working off of a real, live person standing across from you. It’s like trying to play basketball online – you can work on some skills, but you can’t play a full game.”

His actors now must focus on working with themselves, starting with monologues instead of partner scenes. Acting was made to be performed in front of others, but a lack of the ability to be face-to-face has turned that into quite the challenge.

Even professors with previous experience teaching online classes will struggle rearranging their entire lesson plan to fit a new platform.

“I have spent some time teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) online, and I have tried to make use of as many Blackboard tools as I can in my courses.” Harman said. “I’ve gotten fairly comfortable videoconferencing and exploring various tools that way, but there’s no preparation for teaching acting online.”

Students have been focusing on bouncing ideas off each other and using their partner’s reactions to keep a scene going. Without a partner to focus on, dynamics change.

The most important thing at the moment for Professor Harman is making sure that his students are still able to participate in his classes and are able to learn in a new way.

“I (feel) most at home in a face-to-face classroom.” Harman said. “Sometimes students who are having trouble following a concept or who are struggling with a skill won’t tell you out loud – you’ll see it on their faces as they work. That is much harder to do in an online environment.”

Online learning will not only be a struggle for students who learn better in the classroom, but also for professors who are unfamiliar with teaching online. As the semester progresses, professors hope to become more familiar with digital learning and that students will still get the learning experiences that they need.