In this new environment of learning, more and more professors are leaning into the online platform to teach their classes and interact with their students. One such professor is long-time COBA professor, Dr. Don Pope. Dr. Pope teaches undergrad and graduate classes, and within the past year, has transitioned to teaching his classes online. While it might seem intuitive to think online classes would lack much interaction, Pope has expressed that he is seeing “more engagement than ever.” That seemed surprising to us, so we sat down with him to understand how he encourages engagement in a virtual environment.
How have you noticed “more engagement than ever” while teaching your online classes?
Dr. Pope explains that while the engagement might look different than an in-person class, it is still strong. “The discussion questions in the Canvas online courses provide for a more structured environment for student responses and interactions.” He went on to say that because of the way the students can engage with each other, no student dominates the discussion as they might in a face-to-face environment. He shared that the online environment is also helpful in providing more detailed video explanations for solving problems and assignments, which is “especially helpful to students who struggle to absorb lectures or students who are sick or traveling for sports.”
Specifically, during COVID, how did you work to engage your students?
“When COVID first shut down our face-to-face class delivery in March 2020, I remember looking out my office window and seeing all those Redbud trees in bloom on the east side of our building, symbolic of God’s continued blessings. About that same time, my wife and I were sitting at home on a Sunday morning watching our church service using my computer, taking our own communion using crackers and grape juice. It occurred to me that my newly online students might need encouragement besides just instruction. So, I began sending out a Sunday devotional thought each week and I have continued that.” Dr. Pope has continued to send his Sunday devotional to his online classes since March of 2020.
How have you seen the Lord move through this transition to fully teaching online?
For Dr. Pope, the transition to teaching online was more than just a COVID response. About 5 years ago, he began to lose much of his speaking voice. Unable to regain the volume he needs to speak to an in-person class, he made the decision to teach online at this time. “I really, really enjoyed classroom teaching, so teaching online is something that I had to adjust to. But having said that, I have felt Spirit-led to engage my students more with the Sunday Bible verses and asking them how I can pray for them. My spiritual interactions with my students have been greater online than before in the classroom.”
Can students still stop by and see you in person?
“Yes. Some of my online classes are for Abilene residential students, and I would really like that. I still care about each student on a personal level.”
Dr. Pope’s ability to not only adjust to online teaching but go the extra mile in making this format even more personal for each student is indicative of the intentionality he has shown to all of his students throughout his teaching career. Inspiring, equipping, and connecting with our students is more than a mission statement for Pope. He is living this out daily in the lives of his students.