Temperature control in the fall semester
When universities around the world turned to emergency distance education when the pandemic hit, that wasn’t a problem for professors who regularly teach online. However, at NC State, many professors had to spend a dime in two weeks to move their classes online. There is a big difference between preparing an effective online course and simply recording lectures and putting them in Moodle.
We reached out to Kimberly allen, the new Associate Director of Academic Programs at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), to get a glimpse of how this semester unfolded from her conversations with students and faculty.
Allen brings a wealth of knowledge from her new role combined with her experience as an online professor, extension specialist, former director of the Online Graduate Program in Youth, Family and Community Sciences and a first member of the DELTA faculty.
Allen has had conversations with professors and students about the pandemic. Some of his takeaways are below.
What is working well for students?
- Creating a structured schedule helps students achieve success (for example, set deadlines and frequent communication with the instructor about deliverables). This is true whether the course is online or in person.
- Maintain clear communication in multiple locations. Yes, it’s probably in the curriculum, but the reminders and recordings are very useful for students of online and distance learning (ODE) courses.
- Interaction with instructors, whether online or in person, builds relationships and enhances academic success. Most students want live engagements (Zoom meetings count).
- Flexibility has become more important during the pandemic, and students benefit from the home connection where they can more easily juggle other responsibilities.
- Recording lessons and / or offering synchronous distance options is essential for students to be able to engage even if they have to miss class.
Students who enroll in ODE degree programs always prefer their online format, and nothing has really changed for them.
What is not working well for students?
- Students always want to have the social connections that campus life brings. While more activities are available online now, it is still known that the pandemic is not over, and some fear losing those connections.
- Asynchronous learning is outside the comfort zones of students. The flexibility of being able to log in at any time is handy, but overall, mainstream students tend to prefer the social aspect of being on campus and, to some extent, “in” the classroom.
- The learning of technical or complex concepts is always desired to be done in person. Allen says what the students really want is HyFlex courses, with some chances of being on campus but options to do things like online lectures.
- Quality education is more important than ever; quality online education takes time and effort, and students prefer high quality distance learning courses.
- Flexibility and compassion go a long way. There are still a number of emotions at play; students are happy to be back but still have the worries and stress of living and being a student during a pandemic.
What about Allen’s tips for teachers looking to improve their online course elements?
- Meaningful learning comes through engagement. Whether online or in person, facilitating engagement is key to good teaching.
- Take the time to prepare for the e-learning components. Just like preparing for any course, quality takes time and effort.
- Share best practices. Some teachers don’t feel like they know how to teach online or know the best practices. There is so much information to sift through about best practices online. Allen suggests that professors contact DELTA first, but also share best practices and have discussions with colleagues in their field, and join Facebook or LinkedIn groups to participate in the discussions.
- Bend over to watch your own recordings online and compare them to Quality Matters (QM) sections which are super useful.
- Acquire help. When you start to rethink your courses to prepare for hybrid or online delivery, contact DELTA. Allen has used the resources and programs offered by DELTA – from DELTA grants and workshops to QM training.
What has changed since the pandemic?
- The North Carolina state administration has shown increased interest in online learning. This year alone, NC State’s first online bachelor’s degree in agricultural science has been approved.
- There is a shift towards the acceptance of e-learning after the pandemic. Allen recently launched a call for faculty to contribute to CALS Online Academy, a program that brings CALS courses online without credit, which has increased the number of faculty delivering classes from two to five.
- In general, teachers and students are much more open to online learning.
- A student-centered approach gives students what they need, when they need it. Students want – and often need – more accessibility and flexibility.
“Online programs offer a great solution if they are developed with intent and quality,” says Allen.
Examples of FB and Twitter communities (no approvals, just examples):
This article originally appeared in DELTA News.