‘A good challenge’: UC Berkeley professors prepare novel methods for online instruction

Berkeley Recreational Sports Facility
Calvin Tang/File
Instructors of physical education courses are working to approach the fall semester's fully online start, making plans to record classes for easier access or to broadcast them from campus gyms.

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As the fall semester will start remotely, UC Berkeley professors are combining their expertise and creativity to come up with unique ways to teach their traditionally in-person classes online.

Those teaching subjects such as the visual and performing arts and physical education face the greatest challenge of adapting their courses. According to campus music composition professor Edmund Campion, teaching remotely puts a tremendous responsibility on instructors who teach courses that value human connection.

“The main challenge is that it’s a completely different medium,” Campion said. “When you have 300 students, you can talk to people, but it is very difficult to talk with people.”

To address the challenge of technology accessibility, Campion’s course will provide students with a computer software license from the UC Berkeley Center for New Music and Audio Technologies to complete their weekly labs.

In addition, breakout rooms on Zoom will be used to facilitate collaboration among students in groups of 30. With a “flipped classroom” format, students will work on projects together and teach one another.

Choosing a different approach, campus music professor Myra Melford will start with smaller performance projects, in pairs or individually, that focus on the fundamentals of ensemble music.

“I’m going to try to break it down where everybody is still doing the skill development, but we’re doing it more incrementally than having everyone performing together right from the beginning,” Melford said. “We will also start to go deeper into how we communicate through recording to make ensemble music.”

Instructors teaching physical activities will mostly rely on Zoom to deliver remote instruction. For example, physical education program lecturer Jason Britton will broadcast his class from the Hearst Gym on campus to mimic the experience of in-person instruction.

In addition to using Zoom, Russell Ahn, campus director of martial arts, will record instructions to provide easier access for students in different time zones.

“Students will still benefit from taking these classes not only for physical training but also to focus on building confidence and developing coping strategies,” Ahn said.

For art practice department chair Allan deSouza, the challenges of next semester include not only addressing physical restrictions and safety concerns but also revising course content to determine what kinds of art are relevant to our “current anxieties” and “shared lived experience.”

Combining a variety of different instruction methods, the Berkeley Dance Community will be hosting both online training programs and small in-person practices for video projects. Sheena Dichoso Echano, the ASUC senator representing the community, will be making sure that any in-person gatherings follow city health guidelines.

“(Teaching remotely) is really challenging, but I think it’s a good challenge, so I’m kind of excited about it,” Melford said.

Contact Zoe Chen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @zoe_chen820.