Jones College of Business supply chain management professor Kimball Bullington and assistant professor Richard Tarpey wrapped up a fall semester in which their remote instruction skills sharpened following a spring and summer of adjustments amid the ongoing pandemic.
Bullington, finishing up his 23rd year at MTSU, admits that his video-making skills have greatly improved after the university quickly shifted to remote-only instruction following spring break in response to the COVID-19 outbreak across the community, state and nation.
“We teach continuous improvement (in the class) and we’re doing it,” he said with a slight chuckle. “I’m really excited about the way things have gone. It’s not been without bumps, but it’s put us miles down the road from where we were.”
He and Tarpey took leading roles in adjusting course delivery to finish out spring and summer classes of the undergraduate MGMT 3620 Supply Chain Operations course, standardizing homework assignments for professors teaching the class and improving the summer online course with development of a custom textbook.
For fall, the Department of Management was able to offer online, remote and hybrid versions of the course, with Bullington wrapping up teaching a hybrid course this fall, and Tarpey, who’s been a full-time professor for a year after four years as an adjunct, planning to teach an online course during the new winter term.
“It’s accelerated my development in how I teach online,” said Tarpey, adding that he tried to take advantage of the training sessions on online teaching offered for faculty through the Learning, Teaching and Innovative Technologies Center and the Information Technology Division.
“I think I’ve improved quite a bit with online teaching and recognize that I have to be more proactively engaged with the students.”
Bullington praised Tarpey’s heavy lifting over the summer to redesign the course for fall and said a key motivation for he and Tarpey leading development of the custom textbook was to get the group of professors teaching the course “on the same page.”
“This course has five written assignments as a requirement … so we standardized that all of the professors were giving the same five writing assignments,” Tarpey added. “With the standardization of this content, we know that every student coming out of this course should know a common set of concepts about supply chain.”
The customized textbook also provided students with a more focused and affordable option for taking the upper-level course. Students could rent or purchase the new textbook for $30 to $50 compared to the original full-sized textbook that cost four to five times more and had increasingly become cost-prohibitive to many MTSU students.
Once Department Chair Jill Austin approved pursuit of the custom book, the professors worked over the summer to incorporate it into the remote instruction “shell” within the university’s online learning platform, Desire2Learn, more popularly known as D2L. Now, some remote formats are available with required Zoom sessions, while Tarpey offers his students optional Zoom sessions for those who may have questions.
“The class has really evolved since COVID, hopefully for the better,” he said. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress.”
Bullington admitted that the pandemic has seemed to take a toll on some students, with some perhaps not familiar enough with online learning as they attempted to juggle jobs and coursework, while Tarpey suspects some students simply underestimated the amount of time and attention needed to successfully participate in and complete online course work.
Both said one potential improvement they could make to the course would be inviting industry guests to speak to students about their experiences.
“Our course is very applied, very practical and it’s aimed at getting students prepared for very specific types of jobs. We have the contacts, so it’s something that’s absolutely doable,” Bullington said.
Tarpey agreed, noting that while his on-campus course is experiential learning (EXL) certified because of its interactive nature, online course assignments will require a different approach than mere problem-solving in order to keep students plugged in.
“I believe that (industry speakers) would be a good pairing to get the students more engaged,” he said.
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)