Spinning a new type of web for online learning: Dr. Webb brings his unique style to online teaching

Dr. Webb dresses up in the style of a KISS band member. He dresses up in different costumes for each online class.

Rachel Dvareckas, Features Editor

Online learning can make it hard for some students to stay engaged in their coursework. Students can get easily distracted at home and may not get the most out of a lesson because their attention is elsewhere. 

Dr. Paul Webb is changing the way students in his courses learn with a fun and entertaining method that makes sure his students are focused on his lessons. 

Webb, a biology professor who has been at RWU for 21 years, has taken to using costumes and props to teach his classes online. He wears a different costume every day since classes switched to online. His lectures are live, but he likes to introduce topics with a pre-recorded video clip that he made. 

“For my Animal Physiology lab classes, I have been filming videos outlining the lab procedures that students would be doing if we were still on campus,” Webb said. “But since I have to do them from home, I am substituting household items like the toaster for the more high-tech lab equipment we have on campus and wearing a snorkeling mask in place of lab safety goggles.”

Emily Reiner, a senior marine biology major, is taking Marine Mammalogy with Dr. Webb this semester. She believes his teaching style is already effective, but with the addition of the fun elements, it makes it easy to adjust to online learning.

“Every day he also wears something new, whether it be a ghillie suit, a funky hat, or a full-blown rendition of Gene Simmons from KISS, nail polish, wig and eye makeup included,” Reiner said. 

Dr. Webb’s purpose for this unusual way of teaching is to keep his students interested in what they are learning when they are away from campus.

“I had to film something since they couldn’t do the experiments themselves. So I thought that if I’m making a video anyway, it may as well be entertaining,” Webb said.

“Making them funny motivates the students and keeps me interested and challenges me to come up with new ideas for presenting material I’ve been teaching for a long time.”

Webb has faced challenges in switching to online learning but he is working through them as best he can. He is missing the interaction with students in his classes and with the ability for students to mute their audio and video, he cannot see reactions he usually sees in class. Despite the difficulties, he thinks the adjustment to online learning has gone well for him so far. 

“I have been impressed that my students have been very good about coming to class on schedule and participating as much as they do,” Webb said. “It can’t be easy for them to have to complete their classes this way, and of course, we all wish we were back in the classroom together.”