UI professors redefine productivity after two years of pandemic

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Iowa professors say they finally feel like things are getting back to normal.


Larry Phan

Photo illustration.

Madeleine Willis, News Reporter

Two years into the pandemic, University of Iowa professors are learning to redefine productivity after online and hybrid learning expanded their viewpoints on education.

Eloy Barragán, associate professor of dance, worked with the challenge of space during the pandemic. He said dance courses are now in person this year after being hybrid during the 2021 school year.

“There’s not enough space to dance in the dorms,” he said.

After reflecting on the last two years, Barragán said students are excited to be back in the studios and performing in person. He said he is thankful for the opportunity technology has provided to continue doing what they love.

As a ballet professor, he said the dance school was very challenged by the switch to online classes. He said he cut out parts of his curriculum to adapt to zoom classes.

Barragán said moves such as grand allegro, grand pirouettes, and jumps were cut from the curriculum when students were dancing online because there wasn’t space for students to do full leg extensions or jumps on hard floors without risking injury.

“We were alternating week to week, half on zoom and half in person so everyone had the opportunity to be in the studio,” Barragán said.

Drew Kitchen, associate professor in the department of anthropology, said he taught a few classes online, such as human origins, in 2020. Next year he said he will teach hybrid graduate courses.

“Initially, I was less effective in teaching lectures at the beginning of the pandemic than I am now,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen said that professors have a way of tracking students’ productivity. ICON sites allow them to see how many hours they spent on the course or modules page.

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David Gould, visiting associate professor at the UI public policy center, said he has re-established levels of productivity in the classroom while teaching both virtual and in-person classes this semester.

Gould said he was teaching a life design class in 2020 when the pandemic started.

“I took the time to think to myself. Everything is a two-sided coin, there’s pros and cons of everything,” he said. “I would rather teach the most engaging online class I can with my students than I would do a poor, mediocre in-person class.”

Gould added that some students were able to thrive and adjust well to the new online setting, but for a majority of his students the changes have been really challenging. There was and still is uncertainty of what will happen next, he said.

“I was teaching meaningful classes and trying to connect and make a difference with my students who were struggling,” he said. “I would rather live in a time where I could be more helpful, even if it was more challenging.”