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Remotely Hands-On – Inside Higher Ed


Teaching lab sciences and the fine arts during COVID-19.

Line by line and curve by curve, Michael McGreal recently transformed a block of ice in his backyard into a swordfish. He drew a small, socially distanced crowd as he went: the buzz of his chain saw and the spectacle of ice carving during a pandemic caught the attention of some passersby.

McGreal was happy to provide distraction and a bit of beauty in a strange time. But this was about work. The chair of culinary arts at Joliet Junior College near Chicago was taping himself for an upcoming meeting of his ice-carving class. Typically, he makes swordfish live on campus in front of students, who then chisel away at their own blocks of ice with power tools.

But this is the COVID-19 era, in which instructors who teach fundamentally hands-on courses across fields are finding ways to make remote learning work.

“It’s not as difficult a transition as I expected,” said McGreal. “The labor part of it is a lot,” he admitted, “setting up our homes to do cooking videos live and taping them. And a lot of us have children at home now.”

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