NACOGDOCHES, Texas — While classrooms around the country are transitioning to an online format, Dr. Paul Shockley, lecturer in Stephen F. Austin State University’s Division of Multidisciplinary Studies, is transitioning his course to better fit into his students’ lives.

Shockley’s Introduction to Ethics course initially included a research paper to end the semester. Following the ongoing pandemic, however, students will now submit weekly discussion posts about the ethics of people groups reacting to the crisis.

“It seemed appropriate to exchange an essay paper on evaluating ethical models for discussion posts evaluating ‘ethics in action’ given this pandemic on personal, familial, community, state, national and international levels,” said Shockley. “Additionally, this offers students an opportunity to connect, share and even release the heaviness they are presently carrying.”

Shockley knew the change was a good choice after the first week’s discussion. He wanted to start off the discussion with a “raw, real and existential” question, so he simply asked students how they were feeling. Their response exceeded his expectations.

“The responses ranged from anxiety and disappointment to the problems of feeling isolated and alone; but perhaps the most common word used was ‘scared.’ The stories shared by students brought tears to my eyes,” said Shockley.

Shockley is hopeful that this project will help students make sense of the changing world they are in. He believes that by asking questions about ethics and morality, the platform will be a safe and healthy place for students to discuss their experiences.

“Good ideas have good consequences, and bad ideas have bad consequences,” said Shockley. “My hope is that my students will not only be able to critically observe and evaluate the ethical decisions made personally and collectively and the consequences that follow, but that the assignment also brings us together in a way that reflects the power and strength that flows from community.”

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