How professors have updated their home offices for remote teaching

When Chris Martin, a sociology and criminology professor at Algonquin, moved to his new home in Almonte in February, he “went all out” for his newest home office. He has put up an Algonquin College pennant on his wall, placed an immense library on a bookshelf to be an eye-catcher, positioned himself near a small […]
Chris Martin wants to let his students know he understands the difficulty they are going through during the pandemic and that his virtual door is always open.

When Chris Martin, a sociology and criminology professor at Algonquin, moved to his new home in Almonte in February, he “went all out” for his newest home office.

He has put up an Algonquin College pennant on his wall, placed an immense library on a bookshelf to be an eye-catcher, positioned himself near a small fireplace, hung art on another wall and set out some scotch, which Martin does not drink, on a wooden coffee table. He placed the bottle for the aesthetic.

“It’s all about the show,” said Martin.

“Space is extremely important,” said Martin, who is teaching four courses this semester. “My office at the college is designed the same way as the one at home. It is meant to be neat and welcoming, but also academic. I try to surround myself with books. They serve as a great Zoom background.”

After a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Algonquin College many professors and staff members have been making upgrades to their home offices.

Cheryl Dowell, a business management and entrepreneurship program professor, is teaching three classes this semester.

Dowell has had four different home offices since professors and staff members began working from home. At first, when she thought the pandemic would not last long, Dowell worked from her dining room table.

A month later, she upgraded to a makeshift desk she can use for standing and sitting.

For the fall semester, she converted to an office desk and chair.

Finally, in January, she turned a spare room into a home office, and put three monitors, purchased a more professional microphone, lighting and a standing pad.

“It cost very little,” said Dowell. “The college offered reimbursement for some of my home office needs. This includes the standing cushion, the microphone, the lighting. Of course, the college gave me the laptop, a monitor to take home.”

Colin Mills created his home office when he first moved to seem friendly and open.
Colin Mills created his home office when he first moved to seem friendly and open.

Colin Mills, the program coordinator of the music industry arts program, is teaching only one course this semester but has several groups of the same course.

“I wanted to give the best appearance of the background of my office,” said Mills. “I luckily moved into a new house during the pandemic, so when I set everything up, it was meant for teaching.”

Mills has multiple computer monitors, a ring light and a microphone. He decorated his home office with multiple musical instruments, a shelf in the background and a heater at his feet to keep him warm since the office is in his basement.

Bradley Moseley-Williams misses the delightful conversations he had with his students in between classes.
Bradley Moseley-Williams misses the delightful conversations he had with his students in between classes.

Bradley Moseley-Williams is teaching three classes plus a fieldwork pre-course in public relations this semester.

Moseley-Williams already had a home office before the pandemic started.

“I already had sufficient technology to reach out and be effective online,” he said. However, he wishes he had his students and coworkers with him, and he misses his whiteboard.

“What I really needed to add to my home office was a dedicated desk space and expertise,” said Moseley-Williams. “The college provided a lot of online resources for professors.”

Fitzpatrick's home office is where she can work without being disturbed.
Caron Fitzpatrick’s home office is where she can work without being disturbed.

Caron Fitzpatrick, an event management program professor, is teaching four classes this semester.

Fitzpatrick’s home office is on the second floor. The room used to be her son’s, Alex’s, old bedroom before he moved out of the house prior to the pandemic.

Caron’s old home office used to be on the first floor. Behind her were glass doors her family members would have to pass to reach the kitchen.

“You could see everyone walking by as they were going to get breakfast or lunch,” said Fitzpatrick. “I had to worry about their behaviour, what they’re wearing and if they’re wearing anything. I was going to move my desk around so I wouldn’t have the glass doors behind me, but then I realized that even just the sound of my family living their life, studying or working from home, would disturb me. I just moved upstairs instead.”

The new office is carpeted, which absorbs most noises coming from Fitzpatrick’s family. There is a diffuser she uses every day, and many plants and degrees on display.

Because of the carpet, Fitzpatrick hears nothing. “I don’t even know if anyone else is in the house,” she said. “I’ve worked in my main floor office for years, but I was just working, not teaching. And since my floors are made of wood, you could hear every noise. But now that I’m working in a carpeted room, it’s complete silence.”

As for Martin, he will without a doubt return to his old office at Algonquin once the college gives permission to return to campus. He misses the conversations he had with students and the interactions with the other staff members.

But for now, he’s making the best of it while working at home.

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