With the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, followed by the decision to transition to remote instruction, instructors and program directors at East Carolina University have been working to set up online classes for their students.
However, those in programs such as music, theatre, dance and art face a different challenge when it comes to making the switch online as their classes require hands-on instruction to better their students’ understanding of course material and improve their chances of success.
As a result, art professors have had to make drastic changes to their curriculum to address the needs of their students while also dealing with the consequences of the outbreak. Michael Tahaney, director of the musical theatre program at ECU, offered his thoughts on the switch to online instruction.
“The new tools we are discovering will be useful as we move forward, but It would be impossible to sustain online instruction of performing arts courses much beyond the completion of this spring 2020 term. Theatre and dance are living, present art forms, not virtual art forms,” Tahaney said.
Yesterday was the first day of the switch to online classes for ECU students and will be effective until further notice according to the email ECU Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson sent out on March 11. Tahaney also noted that the switch has also impacted the showcases for the performing arts programs, depriving students of the chance to show the fruits of their hard work.
“The biggest impact, in my opinion, was the closing of our Playhouse season. That's heartbreaking. The spring dance concert was supposed to open this week. There is no way to measure how much time, heart and effort went into preparing for that event. To have it canceled impacts all the faculty and students who've worked so hard,” Tahaney said.
The changes made to the curriculum of the arts programs are also meant to ease the worries of those students who are concerned with how the situation will affect their grades and eligibility for graduation.
Emphasis has also been placed on assisting the seniors involved in the programs, trying to ensure that their exhibitions are displayed online so that their accomplishments may be archived.
Seo Eo, graduate programs coordinator and an associate professor for the School of Art, addressed the issues faced by seniors as a result of the transition.
“We are establishing dedicated websites for BFA Exhibitions and MFA Thesis Exhibition. We are considering this adjustment as an opportunity to develop a robust online platform showcasing our students’ creative research outputs that will reach a broader audience and serve as digital archives of their accomplishments,” Eo said.
Eo also commented on the difficulty of instructing online, suggesting that professors must be more flexible with their students in these trying times.
“Students are anxious because of the uncertainty of the current situation. As administrators and instructors, we are assuring students with empathy and understanding that everyone’s needs are different at this trying time. Flexibility and adaptability are keys to helping students know that we are here to provide an appropriate platform and any assistance for their learning and research,” Eo said.