Roanoke College professor discusses challenges of remote learning for both teachers and students


SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, local teachers — including college professors in Salem — are still trying to adjust to a digital classroom.

For some educators, teaching remotely has become an obstacle. They feel they can’t connect to their students in person.

In addition, proctoring students remotely while they take a test is another stressor.

Rob Willingham, a history professor with Roanoke College, says it’s hard to keep an eye on students while they test remotely, but his solution for avoiding cheating is open book, open note exams.

“It’s no good trying to watch them over Zoom for the whole hour, there’s no proctor for something like this. So, rather stressing on how to enforce no cheating, it’s easy to go into the direction of an open book, open note,” Willingham said.

As for his lesson plans, the professor has to be creative while he teaches online, such as adding more breaks between different lessons and breaking up his teaching style.

According to Willingham, it’s been hard to adjust to this new teaching environment, but he worries more about his students.

“As difficult as this is for us, it’s pretty hard, and it’s a lot harder for the students because they are already in the middle of this tremendous life transition,” said Willingham. “It’s hard enough going to college for the first time, obviously, especially if you’re a freshman, and you get to college and it’s this. Students are scared, they are confused about how things work, they aren’t able to walk into our offices and ask for help.”

Despite the challenges he faces while teaching during a pandemic, Willingham says those challenges have made him proud to be an educator.

“Every educator I know, both here and people I know who teach in secondary and primary education, are just busting their humps,” said the Roanoke College professor. “They are trying so hard and most of them are doing so well, and I just want to say I’m proud to be a teacher right now, because it’s a reminder of why people actually get into this business.”

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