Suzanne Szucs is an instructor in the Art program and she isn’t new to teaching online. In 2018 she completed a masters in Technology Integration at St Cloud State University focused on online delivery. One of Rochester Community and Technical College’s core values is Teamwork. Suzanne was able to foster and maintain the expectation of teamwork for her courses even with the change in the course delivery.

How have you adapted your courses and/or teaching this fall? 

My Media Arts class (exploration into audio/still photography/video all under a storytelling umbrella) was going to be in-person, however I transformed it into a hybrid course (synchronous, once a week Zoom meeting). The content of the course is very project based and to align it with how Media Arts projects would work in the real world, we really needed time to do what we would call “workshopping.” Students need to plan out complex projects and talk them through in a group for feedback and support.

The students turn in their plans and we spend our Zoom meeting time talking through their ideas and offering tips and adjustments, and  brainstorming. I’ve gotten great work from the students and this really does mirror how they would currently be working in the professional world.

With limited or no face-to-face time in the classroom, what are you doing to connect with the students in your classes? 

I was able to get to know the Media Arts students during our weekly conversations. With the purely asynchronous course (classes do not meet in real time I reach out to the students a lot.

The key is to make sure that they know you are there and paying attention.

So for their first discussion, I participate 100%, with subsequent discussions I back off a little, so that it really starts to become their forum and as they grow more confidence. I give them feedback on projects as soon as possible, and because these are art projects, the feedback takes the form of screen capture video. I’ve gotten feedback from some of the students that they really appreciate this. I essentially go through their projects assessing, but also giving them advice for how they can improve for the next time. It keeps it much more personal. It is time consuming, but I actually like it a whole lot better than typing a bunch of notes. I reach out a lot–sending personal e-mails if they are falling behind and because I am working at home mostly, it’s actually easier for me to be flexible for office hours. I Zoom with a lot of students.

What advice do you have for students to get the most out of their experience/classes at RCTC?

Students taking online courses need to recognize that you need to spend AT LEAST as much time reviewing material on D2L as you would if you were going to class.

All the material for my courses is available on-demand on their course site, but it’s obvious to me when students are skipping past the material and just trying to turn in projects. Sometimes this is because they are not particularly good at time management.

My best advice is that they set aside the time as if they are going to class every week.

If they try to squeeze in the work, they will have a difficult time succeeding, because something will always get in the way. So even if you are at home, go to class! I have to go to work, so I get it, but that’s the first and most important advice I have.

Next would be to reach out to your instructors.

Take advantage of office hours. I am happy to spend time in Zoom with you every week if that’s what you need to be successful. I trust that my colleagues all feel the same!

Do you have a special moment with a student/students/class from this last semester that you would like to highlight?  

I was feeling bad about one of my classes that I presented for Media Arts. I was wondering if I had pushed the students too quickly. Because I have less time with them, I decided to preface our evaluation of one of their warm up projects with preparation for the next project (which it fed into). At the end of the class session, some of them seemed a little disheartened, like they had failed the assignment — because I had spent a lot of time talking about how they needed to transform their work for the next project. I think they didn’t feel a whole lot of closure! So I was second guessing my strategy and wrote them a follow up in an announcement trying to clarify my strategy. Well, when I got their next assignments, I was stunned! The lesson had really worked. They were writing scripts for an audio piece and it was the best group of scripts I had ever gotten. So it might have felt a little tough for them, but the lesson had really taken hold and gone right into their work. That was very satisfying for me, but also exciting because I was very effusive in letting them know how well they had all done. It wasn’t false affirmation – it was the real deal!