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Art Professor Gets Creative with Remote Learning

By Damaris Fernandez, Co-Editor-in-Chief

A year of remote learning has pushed the ease of teaching in the classroom toward oblivion. Interacting with students and creating engaging asynchronous lessons is the challenge that has come upon most professors. Some have succeeded. 

While many professors are overwhelmed with daily emails and tedious PowerPoints, others have easily adapted to the new system and have gone out of their way to find a method that works for younger generations. One of them is Ethan Greenbaum, a professor who teaches in the Art Department.

“I’m optimistic about it,” said Greenbaum, referring to the challenges of communicating virtually. “Being able to communicate and to both put out and take in content online is just a life-skill that every student should have.” 

Greenbaum is greatly discontented with Modle and decided to find his own medium to reach out to his students and post content; this is how he came across Discord, a popular messaging platform.

Greenbaum says the platform allows him to quickly receive and send messages to his students in “text language,” giving him time to invest in class preparation and content creation. Since Discord was originally designed as a gaming app, it was already familiar to most students before it was brought to the classroom. 

Students appreciate professors’ efforts to create engaging content and finding interesting ways to share it. Johanna Stange is a student who took a drawing course through Discord with Greenbaum. 

“I am having a hard time in the other classes, but this one is very good,” she said. “It is so casual, especially for young people who don’t really know how to write professional emails. It takes the fear away.”

Using more modern tools that facilitate interaction among students and make remote learning less mechanical could financially benefit colleges. 

“When all my classes switched to online format, I actually had to drop my entire course load,” said Dominik Finkler, who took Drawing Fundamentals with Greenbaum. “I have ADHD and it makes regulating time-sensitive tasks like schoolwork very difficult for me, even when I was on campus. Going online made that much worse.”

Aside from the struggle of going completely online, Finkler thanks his professor for his method of making the experience significantly less stressful and more productive. 

“Although I struggle with this online format, I think Professor Greenbaum is making up for that struggle by giving me access to everything I need to succeed in sufficient ways,” he said.

While many students have avoided remote learning and have dropped out of college until campuses reopen, students like Stange prefer remote learning because it is easier keeping up with motherhood and her full-time job. 

“There is always going to be a class where the professor is slacking off and makes you feel like- I could have learned this on my own. But in [Greenbaum’s] class there is so much interaction and that is definitely worth the price,” she said. 

The new global situation has redesigned the original teaching structure, using modern tools in creative ways that would certainly enhance the learning experience for most students. 

“The biggest challenge is to think about format and the best way to connect, and to make it interesting and engaging,” said Greenbaum. “For students who are embracing the format, it seems to work well.”


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