Professor Pajaree and the New Normal
ACKARADEJRUANGSRI Pajaree is an APU Associate professor in the School of Management teaching both undergraduate and graduate program. Some of the courses that she teaches are introduction to management, e-commerce, principles of marketing, and marketing strategies. Students call her Professor Pajaree. She graduated from APU in March 2014 and started teaching at APU in the 2017 spring semester. After graduating, Professor Pajaree decided to teach in order to do something for the next generation. Professor Pajaree started her career teaching at BUUIC (Burapha University International College) then moved to the AIM (Asian Institute of Management) in the Philippines. During these two years she gained a lot of experience. However, due to health reasons, Professor Pajaree had to return to her home country of Thailand. After going back and teaching at MUIC (Mahidol University International College) in Thailand, she applied to become a professor at APU.
As an alumna, Professor Pajaree experienced a significant difference between being a professor at APU now and a student at APU six years ago. When she was a student, she always thought professors were very demanding. However, she appreciated all the hard work because it resulted in good learning experiences, self-discipline, excellent time management skills, and learning to cooperate with peers from around the world during her university life. Now that Professor Pajaree has become part of the faculty team at APU, she recognizes all the effort that faculty members and officers must give to achieve the best learning methods for students. Furthermore, APU’s core values remain unchanged since when Professor Pajaree was a student until today. APU as a multicultural campus with bilingual education still strives to have an international education standard that values individual differences and emphasizes diversity. Professor Pajaree identified that APU’s student body has grown larger and richer through the expansion of the numbers of its students, its increasingly excellent reputation in the local and international market, and its great network of alumni spreading around the world. APU has also cooperated with companies that positively enable students to gain knowledge about job hunting, non-profit organizations, and the local community.
When talking about teaching methods, Professor Pajaree applies active classroom teaching and learning for undergraduate students and focuses on classroom engagement, peer-to-peer learning, group discussion, and case studies to sharpen students’ abilities to think as decision-makers. However, for students of the MBA program, theories, concepts, and analysis are not discussed in class. Instead, students are required to complete individual reviews before class as they will discuss their solutions and how to implement them in class.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching and learning must be conducted virtually. Professor Pajaree has found this challenging because she cannot obtain real-time feedback from students and is unable to see students’ facial expression and thereby identify whether or not they have understood the lectures. These challenges reduce classroom engagement. She has also noticed that students are more easily fatigued when studying in front of the computer, but it is difficult for Professor Pajaree to determine when students need a break in order to increase their energy level. Furthermore, online classes are more time-consuming than face-to-face classes due to technical issues which can arise from Zoom features, Wi-Fi connection problems, and other external factors.
Despite these challenges, Professor Pajaree sees online teaching has brought advantages too, such as new experiences and the opportunity to step out of her comfort zone. It has improved her planning skills and her multi-tasking skills because she must now pay attention to more than one device for communicating with TAs while also watching for student interactions and raised hands along with the chat features on Zoom. Since students tend to be more silent during online classes, Professor Pajaree has also learned to be more attentive to feedback from students by pausing a bit to find out their responses on whether or not they understood or are confused.
Face-to-face classes are of course easier to manage because when the class ends, students can stay longer to ask more inquires. However, with online classes, students must log in and out of Zoom, thus they have less time to ask questions and receive answers from professors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Pajaree has worked from home, which means her time has become more flexible. As a result though, Professor Pajaree has been working most of the time, hence every day her working hours are from 8:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. Moving forward, she wants to improve her work-life balance while virtual teaching.
In response to the pandemic, volunteers from amongst APU alumni, professors, faculties and staffs have joined together to create APU Hands, an organization aimed at helping APU students who have been affected by COVID-19. Professor Pajaree has contributed as a part of this organization. She has heard heart-breaking stories from students who cannot return home and have had difficulties accessing basic necessities such as food because of having to prioritize paying utilities and apartment fees. Moreover, the pandemic has affected the economies of students’ home countries and in turn students’ families. Thus, many students must work a part-time job to sustain themselves. However, due to social distancing, many students are no longer able to do part-time-jobs and must limit their meals to only once per day. APU Hands has received positive feedback from APU committees, Alumni, and local communities through monetary donations and food donations such as canned goods, cereals, and instant foods. APU Hands has successfully distributed food to APU students and the team hopes to continue this initiative until students feel sustained and can receive sufficient financial support from the government.
Professor Pajaree offers words of motivation to students during these hard times, the times that no one in this world wants to experience and which we cannot control. She suggests doing what we can through education because the future will eventually come; be responsible, and take care of yourself and the society around you. Remember that we students are not dealing with COVD-19 alone, and try to see things with new perspectives and from the brighter side. Professor Pajaree extracts positive changes from COVID-19 too; people are now more caring towards one another and are creating new behaviors to improve society (such as cooking more, spending more time with family and friends, reducing pollution, etc). People must adapt to new norms, from new ways of job hunting to new ways of increasing students’ learning motivation.
“Stay safe, stay strong. No one else can hurt you except yourself. You can worry about it, and stress a little bit, but you will get through it.” - Professor ACKARADEJRUANGSRI Pajaree, 29 June 2020.