Professor Sets a Course for the Open Road, Teaching Virtually Across the U.S.

Troy Hale plans to make the most out of virtual instruction, teaching MSU courses from a camper as he travels across the country during the spring semester. Taking on the title of “Professor on the Road”, Hale teaches film for the MSU School of Journalism as a professor of practice.

After MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., announced most classes at the university would continue in an online format for the spring, Hale decided he would plan to teach his classes from his vehicle as he travels across the country. He purchased a camper attachment for his pick-up truck through Facebook marketplace and he spent the last weeks of 2020 prepping for a semester-long journey on the road—an initiative he calls “Professor on the Road”.

With the ongoing global pandemic keeping students and professors from the physical classroom, things look different for the year in education. Virtual learning has presented plenty of challenges throughout the past months, including limited student access to university camera equipment. Students are now using their smartphones instead of their usual DSLR or NX5 cameras to complete class projects.

Despite these changes, Hale is looking to keep a positive outlook in his courses. “I always try to tell students that it’s not about the equipment, it’s about their skills. So, the fact that they’re shooting with an iPhone right now is okay”, Hale said. In reference to the shift in equipment, he also applauded his students, noting that the quality of work they have produced this semester has remained at a high level despite all the challenges with which they were faced.

This spring, Hale will be teaching two sections of a 300-level filmmaking class and a journalism course on TV news. With this new virtual teaching initiative, Hale is hoping to encourage students to take advantage of the current circumstances.

“There is no other time in the world that I would be able to take a semester and do this whole online thing,” Hale said. “All you need to do college right now is your laptop and an internet signal.” He is optimistic that his new adventure will promote creativity in his students during these unpredictable times.

In the fall, Hale reached out to the community asking for recommendations on where he should travel. Taking all of the best suggestions, he compiled them into a Google map. With loose plans to hit as many recommendations as he possibly can over the duration of a few months, his journey is sure to be unforgettable.

With his vehicle equipped with a bed and a make-shift outdoor shower, he plans to embark on his trip in February and make his way out west toward San Diego, California. He will be capturing breathtaking footage of all the sites he sees along the way to incorporate into his classes and enhance his lesson plans for the semester.

Hale emphasized the importance of focusing on all of things that can be done during these times rather than focusing on what is no longer a possibility. Follow the journey on his social media account.

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