Ohio University

Brandon Saunders: Adapting instruction during COVID-19

Brandon Saunders: Adapting instruction during COVID-19

Brandon Saunders is a professor in the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies, where he teaches a variety of Information Telecommunication Systems (ITS) classes. Like many faculty members, Saunders has adapted to the remote learning using a variety of programs. Here is how he is adjusting.

Q: What is your current remote situation?

A: Working from home. The family shares a computer room, which is pretty much the nexus of the house physically and virtually. I have brought home my mobile recording studio which is set up in a quieter part of the house. My wife is managing the family business from here as well, and our three kids (18, 16.5, 13) are all here as well. The kids have not gotten back to school yet [at the time of this interview] and are getting tired of playing video games already. They are avid self-learners and musicians, so they are starting to fall back on those skills to bide the time. 

Q: What classes do you teach? Which are you teaching this semester?

A: ITS 2140 – Intro to Telecommunications; ITS 2300 – Data Networking; ITS 4900 – Computer Architectures and Operating Systems

Q: What advice do you have for instructors or students in the current environment?

A: IT problems usually fall into two baskets: those that are ridiculously easy to solve and the ones that are extraordinarily hard. (Usually these are two or three problems all mashed together.) I am myself and I intend to teach the people who are called in when the problems are hard to solve. In those hard-to-solve situations, you just have to work the problem, peel apart layers, gather good data, and compare the environment to what is working. Solutions take time and patience, and you have to be willing to put the energy and time into the problems and also patient enough to allow something to fail and start over again. The same is true for working in this environment.  

Q: What software are you currently using to teach students?

A: I am getting more out of the instant messengers than anything: Microsoft Teams; Discord; GroupMe; Slack. Blackboard has always been the root of my classes and is even more so now. I am recording and composing videos with Camtasia.

Q: Describe the successes you’ve had so far with your remote approach.

A: 2300 was the hardest class to move to online because of the lab component. Fortunately, we were able to fall back on the resources that were developed for last year’s ITL (ITS 4750- Internet Engineering) class. That has been a big jump to get the students through, and I am happy with where we have gotten.

Q: How are your students responding to this experience?

In general, really well. From the outside, they are asking good questions, and as usual, finding the edge cases and parts that worked when I tested it, but fail spectacularly when they don’t.