University Studies professor impressed by students...

University Studies professor impressed by students’ motivation during pandemic

Vivian R. M. Alley (Photo: J. Intintoli)

Professors who teach first-time college students have a unique task ahead of them. They’re responsible for introducing students to what their college experience will be like, whether that’s part of their official job description or not. It’s not an easy task in a normal year, much less a year occurring in the midst of a global pandemic.

Dr. Vivian Alley is a professor teaching and coordinating prescribed mathematics courses in the University Studies Department who interacts with first-time freshmen every single day. In the spring, when professors were asked to transition from in-person learning to virtual courses, Alley was unsure what to expect but felt more comfortable because the classes she was teaching had already been developed for online by other professors.

“I was teaching college algebra and essentials of mathematics, and fortunately one of our faculty members had been teaching those classes online,” Dr. Alley said. “Dr. Fisher had all of her videos for those classes ready to go and we put those online for the students.”

Vivian R. M. Alley (Photo: J. Intintoli)

Vivian R. M. Alley (Photo: J. Intintoli)

Alley quickly realized there was more they could be doing, and she started learning about Zoom, the online meeting platform we have all become familiar with.

“In the spring, it was different,” she said. “We were all trying to figure out what we could do and how that fit with students’ schedules.”

Alley said she and her colleagues looked at the experience in the spring as a good one, even though it was difficult. She knew they would be able to take what they had learned and experienced and make informed decisions for the fall semester if they needed to.

This fall, Alley taught one of her classes with little changes since the classroom numbers already meet the COVID capacity requirements. Her other class, however, is web-assisted, with half of the class attending in-person on Monday and the other half on Wednesday. All students connect to the class virtually on Fridays.

Vivian R. M. Alley (Photo: J. Intintoli)

Vivian R. M. Alley (Photo: J. Intintoli)

Alley said the biggest and best improvement for her classes and others in her department is their use of Panopto software. Panopto records lectures and uploads it immediately to a class’s learning management system, or in MTSU’s case, D2L. Alley said that has really changed the way her students can participate because on the days students are not in class, they are able to watch that lecture almost immediately.

“It is such a great tool and I think it’s something positive that has come out of all of this,” Alley said, commending the hard work of those who made it happen. “I know the people in ITD were working overtime to put these things in place, and by the first week of class, it was in most of our classrooms and working.”

— Hunter Patterson (

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