Learning and teaching in pajamas, on the couch with the laptop on one’s lap and coffee in hand, is the new normal at William Woods University.
Since moving all in-person classes to online learning on March 16, the WWU Community is abiding by the social distancing and safety guidelines to help defend against the COVID-19 pandemic.
But just as students continue to adjust to the new world of online classes more than three weeks into establishment, faculty are adjusting as well, including no longer having in-person interactions with their students. So in the ongoing acclimation to the current academic reality, faculty decided to share some tips with their students to ensure their online experience is successful in this version of Ask the Professor:
Sean Baldridge, Assistant Professor of Physics
I am sure many of you are finding that online classes, like working from home, are not as simple as they seem, in theory. Everything probably sounded great when your professor said that you will continue as normal only now everything will be virtual. You may be finding that not so true at this point, after a few weeks. Putting aside the stress of the situation, and perhaps the additional technical difficulties in achieving such a goal, there is still a small hiccup in the system. And that’s you. Not you specifically, but human nature. We tend to gravitate toward the easiest path, and right now, the easiest path is to say: “I’ll do it tomorrow”. And then tomorrow comes and then the next day. Before you know it, you are behind in all your classes. Homework assignments, readings, and (now) watching video lectures have piled up on your desk and you suddenly feel overwhelmed.
My advice to all of you who now find yourself overwhelmed and falling behind: make a schedule and stick to it. We tend to thrive on schedules, even from an early age. Every parenting book I read while trying my best to raise our daughter says to create a routine for your child. While we are all grown up now, a schedule still puts us at ease, and gives you much needed structure in your life. Give yourself several hours a day to do schoolwork and make it a routine.
Jessica Brown, Instructor of American Sign Language and English Interpreting
Familiarize yourself with video conferencing platforms, sign on early and play around with online resources. Take the time to find those resources and use as many digital articles and books as you can. And be sure to take advantage of online user-friendly options such as Quizlet, Kahoot, interactive chats and Social media; these tools help a lot to get in touch faster and fix technology issues.
Rachel Deutmeyer, Assistant Professor of Photography
Be mindful of how you spend your time, especially as you establish new routines with online coursework. My best advice is to prioritize your responsibilities and goals, then develop a schedule reflecting those priorities. Let your calendar be your manager! An intentional schedule can be a framework to help manage your time, an encouragement as you celebrate crossing tasks off your to-do list, and a great resource as you pursue academic excellence.
Stephen Forsha, Assistant of Professor of Business
My first recommendation is to navigate through your online course before the course begins so you have a feel for the course’s layout, can access relevant resources, assignments, and so on. Next, read the syllabus and refer to it often during the course. Know when assignments are due (they are not always due on Sunday nights). If anything is unclear, discuss the issue with your professor.
Second, be self-disciplined. The flexibility of online courses is attractive but that flexibility can also lead to issues if you are not disciplined. Hold yourself accountable for logging into your courses, organizing your work and completing assignments on time. Check your login activity report to get a good picture for how much or how little time you are spending in your course and where you are focusing your attention.
Third, do not procrastinate. Check into your courses throughout the week. Ask questions early rather than right before an assignment is due. Do not wait until the day an assignment is due to complete it but rather, work on it throughout the week, so life events do not prevent your completing assignments.
Finally, advocate for yourself by engaging with your professor. Ask clarifying questions, let your professor know if you are struggling and, be proactive in seeking help when you need it.
Steve Middleton, Assistant Professor of Athletic Training
Online education has truly evolved since my first distance education course. At that time, I was given a packet of assignments with a due date of 16 weeks later. Today’s online courses are designed with the student’s success in mind. My advice:
1. Attend “class”: check into OwlNet on the days you would normally have class to see announcements and to complete any assignment due that day.
2. Watch videos: posted PowerPoints are helpful but make sure to watch posted videos as well. My PowerPoints follow “Presentation Zen” by providing basic information; the posted and linked videos review the basic information but also go deeper into the material while providing study tips.
3. Stay connected: reach out to the professor and your classmates if you have questions about the material after you have reviewed it. I have set up forum collaboration posts for each unit of my courses; students can post anonymously to be free to ask questions that their classmates may have. Email also works.
4. Relax: you’ve made it halfway through the online component. Only a couple more weeks to go!
Cynthia Kramer, Professor of Political Legal Studies
Online classes can provide a number of advantages as well as some unique challenges for both students and faculty. I think there are important factors to keep in mind when teaching or taking online classes.
- Communication: In an online class, communication is generally limited to language. The use of written language, and especially grammatical devices such as periods, exclamation points and commas, can make a difference in effective communication. I would suggest that both faculty and students make sure that the intent of their communication is clear before hitting that “post” or “send” button to avoid unintended results.
- Consideration: Many students and faculty enjoy the flexibility of online courses. The online format allows work to be completed around other responsibilities and obligations, and even, as William Woods used to advertise, “in your pajamas”. Most online classes require students to post to forums or submit quizzes or writing assignments each week on or before certain dates. It is also important to respond to emails or posts in a timely manner. Mutual consideration and respect between the faculty and the students allow online courses to have the benefit of flexibility but still achieve the appropriate educational outcomes.
- Participation: It is important that students interact with each other and faculty in an
online class just as frequently as they would in a face-to-face class. This is much more difficult than it sounds. The online format generally has the student to student or student to faculty communication is not happening at the same time. This format can make class discussion feel awkward due to the time lag between comments, but all participants should continue to be committed to attempting to engage in this type of discussion. I have experienced some discussions that have gone on all semester and they have been fun and interesting, so I strongly recommend participating with your online class as much as you can.
Chris Schneider, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Patience is key. You may not have taken classes online before, but your professors may not have taught them before either. Realize that things may not always work as planned and let your professor know if something doesn’t seem right. And don’t be afraid to reach out—we will be happy to help you! Also, keep up with your work as you did when classes met face to face. It is easy to get behind.
Rachel Turney, Assistant Professor of Education
My best advice to my fellow faculty members, in this time, is to focus on the wellbeing of our students first. Once I got started and held my first Zoom and looked at the faces of my students, I realized there were many who were stressed, struggling, feeling isolated, and frustrated. After that first meeting I looked to simplify the work and maximize the check ins. We have kept most of the assignments as I originally designed for the courses but have shifted to streamlining those assignments to be about collaborative feedback more than the end product. I am exceedingly proud of the students in my program who are all doing a wonderful job moving online. Many students come to William Woods because they want small class sizes and individualized personal relationships with their professors and I feel that is happening. We have a couple weeks left in the semester and I am excited about how online learning is going and the connections we are making in the virtual world.