As colleges and universities across the country continue to rely much more heavily on remote instruction because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, incorporating online teaching tools has become a must for instructors looking to provide a quality, engaging learning experience for their students.
MTSU finance professor Keith Gamble, chair of the Department of Economics and Finance, has embraced this move toward taking advantage of remote learning technology as evidenced by his new Finance 2010 Personal Financial Planning class, an all-online course that produced a 500% increase in enrolled students and was among courses nominated for the university’s Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Award.
The course, which helps students make smarter financial decisions throughout their lives, was previously taught on-campus only and didn’t incorporate the use of technology. But such use of technology has become a must as MTSU continues with remote learning through the summer semester.
Gamble said creating a high quality online course required a cross-departmental team that included Barbara Draude, former assistant vice president for Academic and Instructional Technologies; the late Jan Pontia as instructional designer; Bill Burgess as accessibility specialist; Kourtney Smith as media specialist; and Gamble as the content expert.
“Our vision for the online course was to recreate the best aspects of an on-ground course in the online environment in D2L,” Gamble said. “My students love having guest lecturers make a special presentation in the classroom on a timely topic. We brought this to the online course by recording interviews with several content experts from industry and from faculty.”
Using “D2L, the acronym for the university’s Desire2Learn online learning management system for students and faculty, Gamble and his team recorded interviews using a professional quality camera, lapel microphone, and portable lighting, then edited into shorter “intro” and “outro” videos for every unit of the course using Adobe Premiere Pro.
The purpose of the intros was to excite students about the course unite while the outros provided enrichment insights for students who had completed the unit. The online course also included accessibility features for those with vision or hearing impairments such as video captioning and audio features.
Gamble also addressed textbook costs, finding an open source textbook from which the team gleaned select chapters to create an online textbook that was “free and fully accessible to students in D2L.” Text and tables were reformatted to make them interactive and allow students to get instant feedback in preparation for homework and quizzes.
Because the course involved a lot of math, Gamble also found a way to avoid the need for each student to have a financial calculator in hand. His team found a freely available and accessible online financial calculator as well as a free online scientific calculator. Using available university software and other applications — Vittle Pro on an iPad with an Apple pen — Gamble was able to create instructional videos that allowed him to narrate calculations in videos “so that students could experience worked out examples step by step.”
The course built in features to gauge effectiveness, including pre-course and post-course surveys that showed noteworthy improvements:
- Students who knew how to manage their debt and repay their loans rose from before 55% to 90% after.
- Students who were prepared to make major financial decisions in life jumped from 33% before to 90% after.
- And students who said they were financially literate increased from 22% before to 78% after.
Gamble said since launching the web-assisted and online course, he’s been contacted by other faculty looking to learn how to incorporate such technology in their teaching and he has provided access to his digital “course shell” for them to use in the creation of their own online content.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee recently reminded the campus community about the support available through MTSU Online, which offers assistance from online faculty mentors and department chairs to help faculty transition summer courses that were formerly on-ground to remote delivery formats.
McPhee noted that MTSU Online has established a weekly newsletter for faculty with tips and tools to enhance online course creation and delivery while also offering frequent “drop-in” events giving faculty the opportunity to meet with MTSU Online instructional designers and leadership.
“MTSU student demand for online courses has grown and will continue to grow,” Gamble said. “MTSU faculty like me are embracing technology to provide innovative and engaging remote learning experiences for our students. With the prospect of social distancing being with us a while, our investment in these online tools will continue to pay dividends for MTSU students.”
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)