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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Physical education classes transition to online learning model

Fitness classes adapt to provide students with physical activity through distant learning

With the shift to online learning for Spring Quarter and summer sessions, many classes have had to adapt to a virtual plan. And physical education classes are no exception. 

For physical education lecturer Mark Johnson, the transition to online classes has had a steep learning curve. Johnson is teaching weight training, aerobic running and general fitness classes this quarter, and he has had to figure out how to transition these classes to an online environment. 

The first week of the quarter served as his transition period, as Johnson worked to explain the new course structure and syllabus to his students. As the next week approached, he began to post assignments for students to complete. Each assignment was posted to Canvas and students were expected to respond to the post once they had completed the assignment. Students were also asked to track their workouts in a fitness app of their choice. 

“The second week I did too much, and I was doing too many assignments,” Johnson said. “I had an assignment for every aspect [of the class]. And I said, ‘Guys, I apologize. Your instructor is technically challenged. I’m a dork.’ And so I combined all of that into one assignment.”

To help make sure he’s listening to his students, Johnson has worked to solicit feedback on the assignments and instructional videos that he posts. He makes an effort to respond to every comment that students make after their workouts, whether it be a follow-up question about how the workout went or a smiling emoji. To him, these interactions are just as important and equal to the encouragement he would give his students if he was standing next to them at the end of a workout telling them to be safe and have a great day. 

This communication is important to Johnson, whose background as a football coach means he feels it necessary to stay in tune with his students’ emotions in order to give them the best experience. 

“I’m big on tuning into my people,” Johnson said. “So when I see my people, and I can see they’re having a bad day [where] I need to pump them up or I need to back off. I just say positive things [so] that they can understand that, ‘This guy’s paying attention to me and cares about me.’”

For second-year theater and dance major Yvette Carillo, the transition to online learning was not easy either. Carillo signed up for an advanced kickboxing class for Spring Quarter after taking beginning and intermediate kickboxing with the same instructor in previous quarters. 

When she heard that Spring Quarter classes were being moved online, she wasn’t sure what to anticipate from the class. But when her instructor posted an announcement saying the class would no longer be a kickboxing class and would instead become a physique training class, Carillo was understanding and excited that she would still be able to get a good workout.

Despite the adjustment to completing her workouts in her living room and watching the lecturer demonstrate techniques through YouTube videos, Carillo found that the workouts themselves were still as physically intense as they had been in previous quarters. 

As the workouts ramped up and the instructor asked the class to purchase dumbbells, Carillo decided to drop the class. Though Carillo acknowledged that requiring the class to have dumbbells “makes sense because we can get a better workout with them,” she said it proved difficult to find the weights.

“I didn’t really know anyone who had them, or there were stores running low, and if [the stores] had some they were really expensive,” Carillo said. “So I was like, ‘Well, if I want to get a good workout in I can probably look at and save the homeworks that she gave us or go back to my knowledge of the previous courses from beginners or intermediate and do my own workouts because she’s given us workouts in the past that are really great without those dumbbells.’”

Although she dropped the class, Carillo still uses the workouts from that class and the previous classes she has taken with that instructor regularly. She said she hopes she can retake the class at a later time. 

Carillo said working out and remaining physical every day has served as a stress release from a hectic quarter. 

“One of the reasons I was bummed that I decided to drop it was the fact that I personally am one to always find a time in my day to either work out or go for a walk or run or something,” Carillo said. “And I really think it’s important to stay physical.”

For Kevin Nosek, a physical education lecturer and the UC Davis men’s basketball associate head coach, teaching students the benefits of physical activity is the mission of these fitness classes. This has remained his mission even throughout the changes that the online course structure has brought. 

“Our mission is, has been and always will be to provide physical and mental well-being for our students,” Nosek said. “With that in mind, we’ve got to be cognizant of what each student has at their disposal. And we’ve got to be a little more resourceful, a little more ingenuitive in providing the students a platform that they can continue to have the physical and mental well-being that we provided so many thousands of students on an annual basis.”

For Nosek, who was set to teach an aerobic swimming course as well as an ultimate frisbee course this quarter, this has meant making some adjustments for individual student resources. His ultimate frisbee class became a general fitness class, and his swimming class has focused on giving students dryland workouts thus far. He is also planning to introduce workouts that can be done in a pool if a student has access to one, though he will continue providing general workouts for students without access.

YouTube and other online resources have made this process much easier. Through YouTube videos, Nosek can easily demonstrate these workouts for the students and ask students to keep track of their progress through online journals on Canvas. Although learning to use Canvas more efficiently and effectively has, by his own admission, taken some time, Nosek said it has not been a huge challenge. 

Like Johnson, Nosek found that Canvas in particular has allowed him to check in with students and remain connected through the distanced learning structure. On the first day of the quarter, he had a wellness check where he listed the benefits that can come from physical fitness and asked students what they were most concerned about. 

“Almost [for everyone] anxiety was the number one choice of all these students,” Nosek said. “They’re feeling stressed about their own remote learning and online courses. And hopefully, as a whole faculty, not only in physical education [but] across the globe, we’re able to provide enough of the resources to take away the anxiety. We hope our physical education classes do that in two ways, both through activity and health and fitness, but also by providing them an easy platform for them to manage [their anxiety].”

Written by: Priya Reddy — sports@theaggie.org


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