Boxing, Swimming Classes Adapt to Online Environment

When VMI transitioned to a distance learning environment near the end of March, faculty in the physical education department had to grapple with a massive challenge: how to teach whole-body skills such as swimming and boxing remotely.

Both swimming and boxing are required classes, so enrollment is very high. For example, nearly half of the Class of 2023 is enrolled in boxing this semester, noted Col. Jimmy Coale, head of the physical education department. Thankfully, Coale stated, cadets had just about half of the semester on post before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted higher education nationwide.

Ordinarily, much of each cadet’s grade in boxing comes from two bouts: the jab bout and the one-two bout. This year, only the jab bout was completed, so grades for the class, which are letter grades just like those given for academic coursework, will be based largely on the jab bout, plus participation.

            To finish out the semester, cadets enrolled in boxing are required to complete warm-ups, perform shadow boxing drills, and watch videos demonstrating specific skills, such as a right cross. If they send a statement saying they have completed the assigned work, Coale will give them a full participation credit for the class.

“We have the same assignments, just the work is going to look a little bit different,” said Coale,

The challenges facing swimming instruction are even steeper than those for boxing, given the fact that not all cadets have access to pools and most public pools are closed. And as was the case with boxing, cadets in swim classes had already demonstrated proficiency in many skills before spring furlough.

Typically, physical education 101, which is VMI’s required swimming class, involves demonstrating skills such as bobbing, floating, treading water, and swimming both on the surface of the water and underneath it.

 This semester, cadets had demonstrated mastery of some skills but not others, so the department had to develop a new plan to make up for the non-demonstrated skills. That new plan included a variety of activities, including watching a video of a swimmer and critiquing his or her form, reading about dry land training for swimming, and creating a dry land workout. Cadets also read from a Red Cross manual about swimming and water safety, including boater safety, and took online quizzes based on their reading.

“We need to keep in mind that this is ‘emergency remote teaching,’” said Capt. Deanne Moosman, who teaches just under 100 cadets in eight sections of the required swimming class.

 “It’s not ideal to be teaching swimming classes online, but we are making the best out of these circumstances,” she continued. “The students are continuing to learn about swimming and swim safety, just in a different environment and in a different way.”

 - By Mary Price


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