Westminster College professor comes up with creative teaching solution during pandemic


Helen Boylan figured out a way to teach in-person and virtual learners labs at the same time

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. (WKBN) – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused everyone to get creative quickly, whether that’s figuring out how to work remotely, visit your loved one at an assisted living home or creating your own disinfecting concoction.

Teachers and professors aren’t excused from having to get creative and stay creative as the pandemic marches one.

One professor at Westminster College has a creative way to teach labs to in-person and virtual students at the same time.

“I would live stream all of my field-based labs,” said Helen Boylan, a professor in chemistry and environmental science.

Boylan teaches a lab course this fall that’s project-based environmental science, and she wanted to get her labs done early in the semester in case they had to completely go online.

“Almost every class period, we were outside, in the lab at the beginning of the semester either collecting data or processing the data,” said Boylan.

Boylan gave virtual students a birds-eye, or teachers-eye, view. She attached her phone to a baseball cap and started streaming so virtual learners could see what she sees. Boylan also sported a headset, which allowed virtual students to ask her questions and for her to speak to them using Bluetooth.

Connected to the headset and microphone is an amplifier, which allows the in-person students to hear her out in the field while maintaining social distancing.

“We try to make it work,” said Boylan.

They say necessity is the mother of ingenuity, and it’s obvious that professor Boylan proves that point.

“I am thankful everyday that I get to come to work and be a person and interact with these students,” said Boylan. “I think a lot of people didn’t think we’d be in-person this long so I think it’s really a testament to people doing the right things, masking, doing the social distancing thing and also the protocols the college has in place to identify people who have symptoms and get people quarantined that need to be.”

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