Education: Meet a Computer Info Systems Professor in the Midwest
Interviewer: Shaurir Ramanujan; August 9, 2020
Interviewee's name has been removed for privacy.
The professor teaches advanced courses in computing & analytics (Brink News).
Could you tell us about yourself and describe your occupation? How does your role and specific field impact the local community?
I am a professor and the graduate coordinator of IT and Big Data Analytics program at a medium sized University in the Midwestern United States. So, I teach advanced courses in computing and analytics, and am also in-charge of admitting students to our graduate program in IT and Big Data Analytics. We provide the much needed highly skilled IT/BDA workforce for most technology companies and companies that deal with information in this region and for the rest of the US. I also have a large number of international students who come to attend our graduate program due to its novel nature and demand for these skills in those countries.
What were some obstacles you faced in your transition to online lecturing?
Transitioning to a virtual classroom was easy for us since we are involved in building such systems and understand its use in our field. In many IT or Analytics workplace, we are used to working remotely even during normal times by leveraging our technology infrastructure. I personally had to adapt greatly to conducting exams online. This is particularly difficult since we do not use multiple choice exams and our tests are practice based. Students develop systems or analyze data in their exam and we have to maintain the integrity of the tests. We used synchronous exams where students worked by sharing their screen over zoom and being on video. This was tedious and time consuming.
"[Conducting exams were] particularly difficult since we do not use multiple choice exams and our tests are practice based...We used synchronous exams where students worked by sharing their screen over zoom and being on video."
How is your academic institution adjusting to the events of COVID-19, and what precautions are being taken?
We are going hybrid in Fall. All students will have alternate weeks of in person and virtual classes. Due to social distance requirements our class size has been reduced by half. So when half the class is attending the class, the other half is attending through zoom. The in person and virtual groups switch every week. In addition, we have many sanitation stations and face masks are mandatory.
How has your outlook on COVID changed, professionally and personally, throughout the pandemic?
I am very optimistic that we will come out of this crisis stronger and be better able to adapt to rapid changes in the environment in future. Even in education we are now more confident being able to provide virtual courses for subject matter that was earlier felt only possible to teach in person. Personally, I have become more organized in my day to day activities such as shopping - I want to avoid unnecessary exposure by reducing the number of trips to buy necessities.
"Even in education we are now more confident being able to provide virtual courses for subject matter that was earlier felt only possible to teach in person."
What is the greatest lesson we can learn from life within this pandemic?
Pandemics can be managed well if we follow simple discipline and pay attention to the public health warnings. There is no need to panic, especially now that we are in a position to treat the symptoms of corona and reduce mortality. In addition, it looks like we will be having the vaccine in the near future.
Do you have any comments or advice that you would like to add?
This is the first pandemic that has impacted a large part of the world very rapidly. Hopefully, we have learned the lessons of managing such a situation at a macro-level. Many people face catastrophic circumstances in their lifetime and come out more resilient and stronger. This is the first time in my memory that we have faced a catastrophic circumstance as a community and I am sure we will come out of this with more strength and unison.