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Faculty members team up to get classes online - Online Learning - Oakland University

Wed Apr 15, 2020 at 09:03 PM

Just like every department at Oakland University, the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Criminal Justice had four days to move all classes into an online format. Department chair Jo Reger had been watching the news of the novel coronavirus and suspected things might go this way. She had already taken steps to help faculty members make the transition. It involved mentors, resources sharing and help from e-Learning and Instructional Support. 

Reger said her department's approach to transitioning to online learning was not unique. Many others within the university used a similar approach. 

“A lot of departments did something really similar. We knew e-Learning was going to be slammed and we asked ourselves, ‘how can we all get this off the ground at the same time,’” Reger said. “We have about 43 faculty members teaching a variety of different classes. Before we even heard that we were going online, I asked for people that had never done online teaching, people who did training or had done online teaching and we started pairing people up.”

Reger said the faculty were matched up based on the types of classes they were teaching. Many of the faculty members experienced with online teaching shared information and they were available to mentees for simple questions and advice. 

“In our statistics courses, there is so much in-class work. The faculty did a Google Meet and talked about where they were in the semester and what they could do to facilitate learning. The criminal justice professors also got together to talk about how they were going to proceed,” said Reger. “We wanted to create consistency across classes. We also brought the adviser into the discussions so she knew what was going on.”

Reger said some courses are more challenging to put in a remote environment than others. While many classes are hybrid classes, there are others who have never taught in that format. 

“For those who hadn’t done anything like it in the past, conceptualizing was difficult,” said Reger. She said the faculty are less focused on synchronous courses, because they realize some students don’t have the same resources. She said eliminating the synchronous component brought the anxiety level down for many of the students and the faculty. 

Reger said putting an entire half of a semester worth of classes online in four days was unrealistic, so the faculty started with just the first week. As the semester continued the course content and the faculty's confidence both grew.

“I just have been really clear with my students. The course and concepts could be revised as we went along,” said Reger. “My students have been great. They are doing the readings, looking at the films and doing the forum questions. I’m really happy with my students.”

Despite the distance, Reger said the students are still making connections with her and with each other. 

“They are interacting with each other online. They are reading what they have done, they are thinking about the others and giving them feedback. There is still a connection happening,” said Reger.