If you feel that your world has been turned upside in the last few weeks, please don’t feel like you’re all alone. You’ve gone through more change in a short amount of time than possibly you ever have and, hopefully, ever will again. Every industry and every organization have been impacted and working to continue their mission in this new environment. Colleges and universities are no different. Within a single week, higher education was forced to change how they teach so quickly that it is no wonder that staff, faculty, and especially students are feeling justifiably dizzy.
With the emergence of COVID-19, most colleges and universities began immediately working to move their classes to a remote learning format, including MTSU. It has been reported that the classes have all gone “online,” but there are some distinct differences between online classes and remote learning.
“One way to think about the difference between remote learning technologies and online courses – is that all online courses are remote learning but not all remote learning technologies are online courses,” explained Barbara Draude, Assistant Vice President for Academic and Instructional Technologies.
According to Ryan Korstange, Assistant Professor of University Studies, “[These] courses were shifted to remote instruction by necessity, not by desire. The goal was to salvage a student’s learning in the face of a massive public health crisis.”
Spring classes are using a combination of remote technologies – online resources, telephone, email, and others. Some classes are taught at their normally designated times using teleconferencing applications. Other professors are recording their lectures over a PowerPoint presentation and uploading it or emailing it to their students. This allows “the faculty to continue to do what they had been doing so far this semester in order to deliver the best possible learning environment for their students,” said Draude.
Draude and Joan McRae, Professor of French and Humanities and Online Faculty Mentor, agree that it’s unfair to compare a rapidly developed remote learning experience with a course developed for the MTSU Online program.
A well-designed online class is a “deliberate, sound pedagogical instructional design for meeting course objectives through well thought out internet-based activities that have been created because they are the best way to learn that content,” explained Draude.
Online classes involve the use of a multidisciplinary team consisting of faculty subject matter experts, pedagogical specialists, professional instructional design experts, and multimedia developers who will utilize various multi-modal techniques to engage the learner and deliver the desired learning outcomes. Once developed, the courses are then vetted through a rigorous peer-review process to ensure that it meets the standards of the MTSU Online program.
The next few weeks will be challenging for everyone – students, professors, and faculty members.
“I have no doubt that many of these courses do a great job of facilitating student learning,” said Korstange. “I am sure that most will be fabulous, but they are different from online courses.”
Draude added, “That faculty are first and foremost trying to provide the best learning experience that they can in this time of crisis. Many are trying to be as flexible as they can.”
During difficult times, both students and faculty need to be patient, tolerant, and flexible when things don’t work out as planned.
Korstange said students need to realize that “faculty are new at remote instruction, too. This is not the way anyone expected to finish out their semester. Please remember that the faculty are doing the best they can to provide meaningful learning in these new circumstances.”
Students should keep the lines of communication open to their professors and other students. Email, phone, text – do whatever you have to do to keep in touch. And don’t wait until the last minute – if you’re confused about something, ask as soon as possible. Your professors want to help you through this process and make a tough situation as successful as possible.
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