Teaching During COVID: How WPU Faculty Continued Engaging Classes
Thanks to donors’ generous support of the Loyalty Fund, William Peace University faculty and staff were able to provide the resources needed to educate students in an engaging classroom environment, despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Classroom learning was excelled through these resources. The Loyalty Fund helped to fund needs such as clear touch panels, wireless microphones, and more.
At the start of the 2020-21 academic year, university communities across America were struggling to discern how to operate in the new socially distant world. In the face of this, WPU faculty and staff came together to provide the best quality education for our students.
WPU faculty and staff worked to create an engaging learning environment, both in person and virtually. Through hybrid courses, interactive whiteboards, Zoom seminars and more, faculty went above and beyond to meet the needs of the William Peace Community.
Two faculty, in particular, lead the charge to the new way of learning, Roger Christman, Department Chair of Art, Communication, and SGD; Associate Professor of Art, Communication, and SGD, and Chris Born, Ph.D., as Director of Immersive Learning. Their combined skills and resources enabled classrooms to be both flexible and adaptable.
As professors, they said they experienced difficulties trying to transition to the new teaching methods. They wanted to enable the campus to transition smoothly. They helped faculty transition to teaching students in-person and virtually at the same time by leading and coordinating Zoom seminars and coordinating the acquisition of new technology and resources.
“It was very difficult,” Born explained. Classes would meet in person and virtually at the same time. Teachers would lecture on camera and to students in front of them. They would wear a microphone to ensure all students could hear them while using an interactive whiteboard, or a clear touch panel, to make presentations visible to remote learners as well as those in the classroom.
Faculty provided for students through these hybrid courses, but also in a myriad of ways. Some classes were taught in larger spaces, like Kenan Recital Hall or the gym in the Hermann Athletic Center, Christman said. Other tools, like the educational software Padlet, allowed students to engage in virtual discussion boards with each other in real-time.
“Courageous confidence was key for faculty to succeed in this,” Born said. “They had to be confident in themselves and in each other to change their classrooms. Faculty supported each other by helping train others on these tools.”
“The faculty were incredibly courageous in using technology they had no previous exposure to,” Born said.
Christman added, “The faculty just really stepped up and they had a tremendous learning curve. But they had tremendous adaptability. This pandemic really showed our strengths.”
These tools were able to function effectively thanks to WPU’s IT Department. Additionally, IT updated campus infrastructure and bandwidth to meet new WiFi needs.
Overall, the updates and changes made to campus in the past year jumped campus technology ahead by nearly a decade, said Christman.
“It is incredible to work in an institution where everyone has confidence in one another, and people are willing to support innovation and try new things,” Born said. “We all have the same goal in mind and that is to benefit the student.”
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