“Keep it simple, as normal as possible, and always think about what is best for our students by putting ourselves in their shoes,” says Rev. Ignacio de Ribera-Martin, assistant professor in the School of Philosophy, who is just one out of the many professors at Catholic University finding ways to ease the transition to online classes for students during the coronavirus pandemic.
In this time of constant change, Father Ignacio’s goal is to help his students not only with their classes but to encourage connection and communication.
“My goal is to meet with all my students individually to ask them how they are doing, whether they know what to read and where to find the texts. In addition, I ask them about their overall experience with the online classes we have had so far, invite their feedback, and if they have any questions or concerns about the course moving forward,” Father Ignacio said.
He has extended his office hours to make sure he has enough time to meet with all of his students and get a sense of how each of them are doing and if they need help beyond the class.
“These meetings have been very positive for them and for me,” Father Ignacio said. “The meetings allow me to know firsthand where each of them are, how they see things from their perspective, to make sure they are on the right track for the rest of the semester, and to identify students who may be at more risk.”
“Meeting with Father Ignacio helped, not just to calm my nerves about moving to online classes, but it was also nice to know that the professors do not like this arrangement either and want to make online learning as easy as possible for students,” said Meredith Hamm, first year exploratory student. “We’re in this crazy transition period for a while, and Father Ignacio was one of my first professors who asked how we felt about all of the changes.”
Father Ignacio says meeting with the teacher can reassure students and put them at ease in ways no one else can. He indicates the tables have turned — students are used to listening to him lecture and now he’s making sure they have a chance to voice their concerns directly and be a helping hand.
John McCarthy, dean and associate professor of the School of Philosophy, expressed how proud he is to be part of Catholic University during this time of change. He sees how students are doing their best to continue their studies seriously, while faculty are doing everything they can to help their students.
“There’s a real concern for our students, and a desire to make the best out of the situation,” McCarthy said. “Faculty have also been helping each other by trading notes and ideas, leaning on each other during this time. It’s a collaborative effort."
Father Ignacio noticed in conversation with his students that the closer the online classes mirror in-person classes, the better it is for students to maintain a sense of normalcy.
“Just imagine how many emails students have received in the past weeks, with all the uncertainty of the crisis, having to change the place they live, and more,” he said.
“I believe Father Ignacio’s online class is the most similar to his in-person class. We still meet at the same time, go through our readings and ask questions. Father Ignacio even found a way to get all of the notes he typically draws on the chalkboard onto a computer document,” Hamm said. “In all of the mayhem, philosophy with Father Ignacio feels the most similar to an in-person class at Catholic University.”