Honors Classes Adapt to Learning in a Covid Classroom

Professor John Chadwick’s Class, Exploring the Planets, meets with journalist Dr. Elizabeth Howell, author of “The Search for Life on Mars.”

This semester has been anything but business as usual in the classroom. Faculty and students alike have been forced to make significant adjustments.

Small, close-knit classes with vibrant discussion are an integral part of the Honors experience. Unfortunately, this means the typical Honors classroom isn’t exactly conducive for social distancing.

But in typical Honors fashion, fall semester classes have adjusted admirably, utilizing a combination of in-person, socially-distanced class meetings and synchronous Zoom discussions to create a new type of Honors learning environment.

The new format has even allowed for opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, like the chance to welcome distinguished guests into the classroom conversation. Professor John Chadwick did just that when he arranged for award-winning journalist Dr. Elizabeth Howell to speak via Zoom with his colloquia course Exploring the Planets.

“The students each asked her a question, inquiring about the process of writing [her] book, her career and background, and her future plans,” Professor Chadwick explained.

He’d assigned Dr. Howell’s most recent book, The Search for Life on Mars, earlier in the semester, but the chance to actually discuss the text with the author proved illuminating for students.

“I thought the experience of talking with Dr. Howell was so enlightening,” Honors sophomore Carlisle McCullough said. “It is so wonderful to be able to get the perspective of the author.”

Other Honors courses have undergone similar adaptations, turning online discussion boards into interactive “literary salons,” or utilizing breakout rooms in ways that encourage conversation and innovation.

While it’s been a unique and challenging semester, it’s clear that learning has continued within the Honors classroom (even if, for the time being, that classroom looks a little different than normal).

Article by Nick Plasmati. For more on how the College is adapting the classroom experience for students, check out the College Today’s new series, Learning Our Way. Photo provided.

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