Eyebrow smiles and social distance: Faculty members enjoy connecting with students, regardless of setting

Whether teaching courses in-person or remotely, Grand Valley faculty members said it felt good to connect with students and reported a smooth start to the semester.

About 90 percent of the university's fall semester classes are being offered online or via hybrid, a key factor to decreasing campus density. 

Roger Gilles, director of the Meijer Honors College and professor of writing, said students in his classes seemed glad to return to normal activities.

"Everyone is adjusting to the face coverings and social distancing," Gilles said. "We’re learning how to project our voices and use our eyes and eyebrows to smile and frown. Overall, I’d say that it felt a little less strange than I’d anticipated."

View more photos of the first week of classes here.

John Kilbourne, professor of movement science, teaches a class under a tent near Kindschi Hall of Science.
John Kilbourne, professor of movement science, teaches a class under a tent near Kindschi Hall of Science.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski

John Kilbourne, professor of movement science, is teaching under a tent near the Kindschi Hall of Science. He began lobbying for outdoor classroom space in the spring, saying he has long been a proponent of "re-imagined classrooms." 

Kilbourne said students in his classes enjoyed being outside although he did field a few emails one day when rain was predicted. "I replied, 'There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing,'" he said, noting it did not rain that day.

Grace Coolidge, professor of history, stood before students in a classroom for the first time since March. "I've missed teaching in person," said Coolidge, who has a schedule of three hybrid courses.


Students majoring in physician assistant studies practice their clinical skills in the Simulation Lab in in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. Andrew Booth, associate professor of physician assistant studies, is at far right.
Students majoring in physician assistant studies practice their clinical skills in the Simulation Lab in in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. Andrew Booth, associate professor of physician assistant studies, is at far right.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski

On the Health Campus, many class lectures are delivered remotely while labs and clinical-based courses meet face-to-face. The Simulation Lab in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences has been modified for limited capacity and its users practice specific safety measures.

Andrew Booth, associate professor of physician assistant studies, said providing simulated clinical environments allows students to hone their clinical skills.

"Simulation has been a teaching modality in our program for over a decade and is still a very effective way to provide hands-on education while maintaining COVID-19 precautions," Booth said.

Eliza MacDonald is an affiliate faculty member and admissions coordinator for athletic training. MacDonald has been teaching remote classes for five years and said she continually incorporates new tools to gain a personal feel within an online format. FlipGrid promotes community, MacDonald said, and Edpuzzel shows videos and gathers student feedback.


Wearing a face shield, Maylee Bowers does a crutch fitting during her principles of athletic training lab on the first day of classes.
Wearing a face shield, Maylee Bowers does a crutch fitting during her principles of athletic training lab on the first day of classes.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
Kurt Ellenberger, professor of music, Meijer Honors College, stands in front of students in the Niemeyer Learning and Living Center.
Kurt Ellenberger, professor of music, Meijer Honors College, stands in front of students in the Niemeyer Learning and Living Center.
Amanda Pitts