Studying with video online lesson at home

Finishing The Semester Virtually

Douglas Klutz: While the Pandemic Takes Its Course, College Students Turn to Virtual Classes to Finish Theirs

Coronavirus is having a devasting impact in every sector of society, testing our healthcare system, economy, and personal health. Even our educational system is shut down, but not shut off. Distance learning has been around for over a decade; now, it is a tool used to slow the spread of COVID-19. Hundreds of thousands of college students around the country were told to head home and continue their classes online. Professors had to scramble to convert from in-person to virtual classrooms.

But for Douglas Klutz, number one rated professor in the country, teaching virtual classes is nothing new. We’ve asked Klutz, who teaches criminal justice courses at the University of Alabama, to provide his insight about the coronavirus and the impact it’s having on higher education.

Work and Play at Home

Spending time at home has allowed Klutz to engage in some extra R&R and keep in touch with loved ones and friends. He says, “Most of my family was in Wilmington, North Carolina. They’re pretty active outdoors too, and they’ve been able to continue outdoor activities. I’ve been going to the park for some exercise. The parks are still open, and I’ve been doing some gardening outside. So, it’s been nice to get outside in some nice weather. But everybody’s healthy, which is definitely good. I feel bad though. I have some friends that live in New York City, and they’re basically under complete lockdown right now.” Klutz sees the worse impact will hit “especially the small businesses, and if you have any kind of commercial real estate.”

As far as how the coronavirus affected his life, how he’s teaching, and how he’s coping with it, he says, “We’ve gone all online and everything’s virtual now. I have taught a lot of online courses in the past. I was pretty fortunate in that I already had my online courses prepped from prior semesters, so they were pretty much already loaded and ready to go. I adopted those former online course models and have been able to use them over the past couple of weeks. So, personally, I didn’t have to do too much extra work.

“But I do feel bad for the faculty members that had to rush in prepping the entire back half of an online course. Without much notice, that’s pretty tough to do, especially if you’ve never taught online. In that regard, my workload was reduced quite a bit.”

Adapting to Online Learning

Most U.S. college students have no issues accessing virtual classrooms. But adapting to online learning as a new norm comes with its challenges. Klutz has his thoughts on online learning, “It’s not ideal. I’ve had some say, ‘I don’t feel like I get the same kind of hands-on experience.’ Maybe they haven’t taken an online course before, and it’s intimidating, especially if it’s like a nontraditional student who’s purposefully avoided online courses. But I tell them in terms of the content that I’m going over the same content and with my video lectures, it’s going to be the same material covered as if I were in the classroom teaching. I make sure to stress to them that they’re not missing out on any content that I would cover.

“I teach really large sections, so I can’t have live question and answer, because my sections are about 410 students apiece. If I did live Zoom questions, that would be a mess. But I do tell them that if they have any direct questions, to send me those questions and I’ll either cover them in the next lecture video or go around individually with the students.

“I’m just trying to stress they’re not getting any watered-down content. It is the same content as if we were physically there in the classroom and under this kind of emergency circumstance, we’ll make it work.”

Thoughts on Our Leaders

Klutz shares his views on the job government and leaders are doing in handling this pandemic, “I think in terms of crisis situations like this, good communication and transparency are key. A lot of people are very fearful, and you see that out there, even at the grocery store. Try to keep those channels of communication open and make sure there’s full transparency. I think the key to any crisis situation is good communication.

“I’m sure in hindsight, it’s always easy to go back and say, well, you should have done this better or that better. Every state’s response has been a little different, too. I was looking at a map, and I saw about five states that have had no real shutdown or lockdown, and then a lot of states have had partial shutdowns, and some having the most cases at this point are now in full lockdown. The response state by state has been a little different and that has to do with the total number of cases. Some states haven’t seen that many cases. I think it’s been an okay response overall.”

Positivity Goes a Long Way

Coping through this crisis has been challenging for everyone. But Klutz offers some great advice, “The big thing is trying to remain as positive as possible. Being in an isolated situation with social distancing and social isolation can be difficult; people feel like they’re locked up. You don’t have the same freedom. So, I think just trying to find positive outlets and taking some time just for yourself. However you feel more positive, through things like meditation or something like that, or reading a book.

“Try to not fixate on negativity all day, every day, I think that can bring you down quickly. Some people, I think, have surrounded themselves with negative news coverage or whatever the case might be, and it starts breaking down quickly. If you don’t have that positive outlet, then that can be really damaging for the psyche. I know some people aren’t in that same situation where they can physically go outside and get exercise or something like that. But try to find something to make you feel better.”

Post-Pandemic Thoughts

Moving forward, Klutz shares his view on whether the pandemic will change us once we get through it. He says, “I think it will definitely have a lasting impact. Economically, I think there’s going to be further fallout in terms of looking at the commercial real estate space like we talked about before. And in terms of large gatherings, I think people are probably going to think twice before necessarily gathering in large groups for at least the short term, even when the ‘all clears’ are finally given. I think people will think twice about, for example, taking cruises, people will probably think twice about traveling to different countries. I think those are lasting impacts.

“In terms of the work world, I see a lot more remote job applications in the criminal justice space. I think cybersecurity was before this, but I think now it’s going to be more so than ever. Because those jobs, most of them can be done remotely. I always tell my students to think about the future, think about what the job market is telling you right now. I think that’s going to be a really strong hiring trend in the criminal justice space and cybersecurity-related careers. That’s what I’m trying to push. All my students are saying stuff like, ‘well, I’m interested in a criminal justice career, but I don’t know exactly what I want to do.’ I always say you should look at cybersecurity because the demand is going to be really strong.

“And in terms of universities, I think there’s going to be a big push for more online. Colleges and universities have seen this. I think there’s going to be a lot more demand for online teaching.”

Keeping Pace with Technology

When it comes to virtual classes, it seems Klutz has always been ahead of the curve. He says, “Yeah, I try. The University of Alabama makes you go through an online teaching training course before you can teach any online courses. I had done that years ago because I saw some of the major criminal justice departments across the country, like at the University of Cincinnati, for example, going towards more of an online model. They did that probably five years ago.” Klutz was amazed that a top-rated program in the criminal justice space became available online. “I think there’ll be even more demand for online teaching now.”

Although online education is not perfect, colleges and universities are making steady progress with innovative solutions. Faculty is catching on, some with difficulty, but others like Klutz are very adept at it. For him, maintaining quality education with students no matter the distance is key for success. Learn more about this top-rated professor by reading the article on Douglas Klutz on Throomers.com.