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Campus News / News

Deepshikha Shukla, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics

06/25/2020 10:40 am

Rockford University Professor Deepshikha Shukla, Ph.D.
Deepshikha Shukla, Ph.D., program chair and associate professor of Physics; Global Faculty Fellow, past president, Illinois Section of American Association of Physics Teachers.

Catalyst: An entity that causes change.

​I have been teaching for nearly ten years. The role of a teacher is clear: to be a catalyst that shapes the future of the next generation. I had established a norm for my teaching by combining interactive lecture sessions with demonstrations, tutorials, group discussions, polling, and experimentation.

Suddenly, COVID-19 happened, and with it came the realization that a new normal was not only critical to teaching but also for our survival of life. Almost immediately, faculty became inundated with resources and options to support online instruction from well-meaning colleagues, companies, and professional organizations. Debates over synchronous vs. asynchronous sessions, discussions about online assignments, accommodations, and exams became commonplace, and they added confusion to the decision-making process.

I decided going back to the basics was the best option for me, so I focused on three things:

  • Know your audience: With a hastened move to online instruction imminent, I needed to know my students differently. A survey during the extended spring break informed me about my students’ access to technology, any added job responsibilities, and the obligations of students who were also parents and helping homeschool their kids. I also asked how comfortable my students were with online instruction.
  • Adapt with compassion: The survey gave me the information I was looking for, allowing me to be inclusive and trim parts of my course that were not suited to this delivery model. I adopted synchronous online instruction to reach those students who needed structure and discipline to succeed. I also provided recordings of these sessions to reach students who needed to watch at an alternate time or could benefit from the review.
  • Follow-up and individualize: The most challenging part has been tracking students and their performance. To accomplish that goal, I reviewed information from attendance in synchronous sessions, such as Canvas (the University’s learning management platform), and online homework/assignment activities. I wrote several emails to students daily and made myself available via phone or Zoom for questions and additional support. 

Shortly after coursework ended for the semester, I received two emails from students. They wrote, “This subject was not the easiest for me but the way you handle/manage your course helped out a ton!” and, “I was always terrified to take any sort of physics course, and you made this one fun and interesting… thank you for all your patience, consistency, and understanding.”

As I reflect on the second half of the semester, I am amazed by the resilience and tenacity of our students. They have overcome an unannounced challenge so admirably that it reinforces my confidence in the next generation.

I am happy to be a catalyst!