We invite Dehonians, co-workers and other collaborators in SCJ ministry to share their personal reflections regarding the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in their lives and their communities. The following is from Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, an assistant professor of Scripture Studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shattered many lives and the world that we knew: lives are shortened, medical treatments are postponed, Masses are canceled, and many people and businesses are on the brink of financial disaster. Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology (SHSST) is no exception to this disruption. Because of health concerns related to the coronavirus, seminarians can return to their respective dioceses, all in-person classes are shifted to remote learning modalities for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, and staff and faculty work/teach from home. In this unprecedented time, faculty at SHSST are thrust into the new world of remote teaching/distance learning on very short notice. For some of us, it is a massive undertaking to develop interactive online courses from scratch in a short time. Charged with the instruction to utilize available institutional resources to convert all in-person classes to virtual settings, we venture into this academic cyberspace with a spirit of adaptability and collaboration.
In my short two years at SHSST, I have never taught online courses or undergone formal training in online teaching. Since I am trained in and am more comfortable with the traditional, in-person classes, I am interested in learning from other professors and remote-learning educators for tips to help develop a creative and effective online pedagogy. This means coming up with instructional strategies that encourage active participation, develop fruitful academic habits, and foster theological reflections. Many suggest that we stay connected with students individually so that they may express their concerns and that we may learn how best to meet their learning needs. Several advocate flexibility. Some propose simplicity: do less. A few recommend that we create compassionate learning environments, giving attention to the uncertainty, stress, and anxiety that our seminarians and students may experience. This is the recommendation that will take to heart as we move forward. The hope is that compassion will lead to trust and understanding.
In this time of uncertainty and rapid change, I take a deep breath and a moment to pray, and listen to where God may be speaking.