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Professors learning new ways to keep students engaged during online classes

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Moving classes online has caused professors to expand their knowledge of online platforms — as well as how to best help their students — during this unprecedented time.

“There is an obvious adjustment to transitioning content from a face-to-face format to an online platform. To the extent that this transition has occurred under the rather unique and unanticipated circumstances, these challenges have proven to be significant in some aspects,” said Dr. Colin Cannonier, an economics professor.

Before all classes were moved online, some professors already had a comfort level with teaching online and had their material online for their students since the beginning of the semester.

“My courses are all set up on blackboard ahead of time,” said Dr. Mark Hogan, an education professor. “It was easy because they already had that format structure in their head.”

Many professors are holding classes in different ways to best present the different types of information to their students, whether it be live classes or pre-recorded lectures.

“The process for online delivery varies depending on the course. The plan is to offer assignments, activities, and interactive content delivery via the university’s learning management system as well as other communications platforms that are most effective in real-time,” said Cannonier, who is posting pre-recorded video lectures in addition to documents that were already available in Blackboard. He also plans to hold a live lecture or two and make himself available to students.

But for some professors, this is uncharted territory.

“I have not used Blackboard Collaborate. I have taught online classes before, but those have been writing-intensive and have not required presentations or face to face sessions. Setting up a “live” classroom session is new for me,” said Dr. Marcia McDonald, an English professor.

“I have colleagues recording lectures or annotating PowerPoints. I wish I had those skills, but my one new step will be with the Collaborate tool to enable a small number of synchronous classes.”

Whether professors are new to online classes or not, most professors are working with their students to help them complete the semester in any way they can.

“I’ve had students who don’t have access to the internet, so I’ve copied flash drives and sent them the course materials overnight. So that they will mail me their assignments,” said Hogan.

Though professors are challenged with setting up and navigating new online teaching platforms being available to help their students is still a high priority.

“Faculty want to be accessible to students, and faculty want students to learn, to grow intellectually and to continue to have the benefits of a community of learners,” said McDonald. “That’s going to take some creativity in these last weeks of the semester, but the Belmont faculty is resourceful and creative.”

Article by Madison Bowen.

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