Returning to the classroom after teaching from 1,000 miles away

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BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — Just like many of educators, Frank Robertson was teaching his photojournalism and multiplatform storytelling classes online during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he wasn’t in Brookings, or even in the state of South Dakota. He was all the way in Ohio. Robertson and his family own a home in Ohio.

However, after an opportunity came up at SDSU for him to teach, he decided to make the move to Brookings, while his wife and her grandfather remained in Ohio.

“So on weekends and on holidays I sometimes will go back to Ohio, but for right now we have two homes. I have an apartment here in Brookings, and I live my residency in Ohio,” Robertson said.

Teaching remotely last year made it so he could live with his family.

While it worked well for his family, there were also a few challenges.

“The challenge really was making the connection with the students and having them connect with the material,” he said. “So, just making sure to design the course in a way that helped them feel connected.”

Robertson set up office hours for his students over Zoom, where he would be in the meeting during set hours and students could come in, just like they could if it was face-to-face.

“Students don’t always take advantage of those office hours, whether you are here or in a virtual setting, but some did and it was great to be able to have those moments where we could sit and chat and talk about what was maybe going on and also work with them outside of those hours as well,” Robertson said.

Although teachers and students are excited to be returning to the classrooms this year, there were also benefits found from online learning that will help them in their future careers.

“I think it was good practice for us learning how to be more online and more remote because I feel like that’s kind of the way the communication industry is moving, so I thought it was good practice, I actually really enjoyed my classes, but I did miss like the face-to-face of like getting to see my classmates,” said Kira Gifford, student.

“I enjoyed that opportunity to work remotely, because of the benefits for my family and the situation that it was, but I’m looking forward to be back there in the class,” Robertson said.

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