A Learning Curve for Professors

How CSI Professors are Adjusting to Distance Learning

By: Sabrina Benet 

The CUNY campus faculty tackles online learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit:

This unprecedented time has brought us a lot of challenges not only as a country but as a community and a school. Governor Andrew Cuomo decided as of March 12th that it was necessary to close CUNY campuses in order to protect the health and safety of its faculty, students, and visitors. Due to news of the closure, the transition to distance learning began on March 19th sending most students and professors into extreme distress. 

Prior to the transition, on March 18th, an email was sent to our CSI emails stating that most faculty and staff will continue to work remotely in an effort to protect their health. During this time it is crucial that we continue to take care of each other. Although the model of distance learning has been a major adjustment for everyone, it is important that we take time to check-in on our professors. 

When reaching out to some professors at CSI, I received a variety of answers when asking how they have been adapting to this new experience. 

While emailing Professor Andrés Cerpa, an English professor, he said:  

“Empathy and engagement have always been pillars of my learning. Flexibility, which is closely connected to and sometimes a result of empathy, has now become another pillar of my learning. I am forced to be flexible in how I engage and promote engagement. I can mourn the before of this moment and simultaneously move forward with hope that there are new possibilities.”

“Through distance learning, in my creative writing courses especially, it is palpable that students will inevitably respond to the physical spaces they inhabit. I am in the process of adapting, or beginning to think through, how I can use this realization as the base of conversations and assignments (within the confines of social distancing!) to help students challenge themselves and generate new work.” Professor Cerpa said. 

As well as Professor Cerpa, I reached out to Professor Vladimir Jovanovic (Environmental Science) and Professor Fred Kaufman (English and Journalism) as well. 

“It wasn’t easy to switch from classrooms to online learning basically overnight. Regardless, we made it. We passed the test as the community and that made me so happy.” Professor Jovanovic said. He also stated that he had experienced technical difficulties in the beginning, but shortly after adapted even more to the platforms he was provided with, such as Blackboard. 

“At first it was a challenge, but I’ve grown to enjoy it and find many positives. There is a different kind of relationship between teacher and student in online and in-class and the politics in online teaching are much looser and less authoritarian.” Professor Kaufman said. 

While receiving a variety of opinions they all seemed to agree that one of the things they miss the most is seeing and interacting with their students and fellow colleagues in the classroom setting. “I spend a strong amount of time worrying about the safety and lives of my students, so many of them are hurting in myriad ways.” Professor Cerpa said. 

When asked if he had a preference for online or in-person classes, Professor Kaufman stated, “I believe both have their merits, but at the end of the day I would come down on the side of in-person.” When asked if there was anything he particularly missed about in-person classes, he said, “I miss seeing my students. I miss the intimacy of that encounter.” 

CUNY’s reopening is still up in the air due to New York being one of the deadliest coronavirus states.  If the campus does not reopen, it is more than likely distance learning will continue, this time leaving professors with more time to properly prepare.

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