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USciences Faculty Prepare for Hybrid Teaching with Online Course

By Zachary Durham

Published on September 9, 2020

Online CourseAs faculty prepare for another semester with many teaching in virtual classrooms, several prepared by taking part in their own online course over the summer. 

The course, “The Essentials of Online Teaching,” offered by Drexel University is a professional development focusing on different ways to engage students through online instruction. The course incorporated research-based best practices regarding how students learn in an online environment.

“The five-week online learning course at Drexel was an extremely valuable experience for me,” said Shanaz Tejani-Butt, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology. “The course forced me out of my comfort zone and changed my traditional way of thinking about teaching and learning.”

Faculty and students alike may be out of their comfort zones this semester, but Samuel Talcott, PhD, Associate Professor of Philosophy, feels online instruction provides a unique opportunity to foster a more interactive classroom environment.

“The Drexel course reinforced my own experience that online teaching offers opportunities to make a course that more explicitly informs students about what it means to be a learner, and thereby produces even greater participation than in a traditional classroom,” he said. “Attending to and creating activities that require participation, the course has the chance to do much more to foster a more cohesive classroom experience.”

Paramount to this cohesive classroom experience is relationships, which can also be formed through the use of activities.

“I learned that through active learning activities that it is the instructor who can help create or start relationships between students,” said Adele Breen-Franklin, OTD, JD, DrOT Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy.

Relationships - between not only classmates but faculty and their students as well - can be difficult to develop without face-to-face interaction, but through the use of video, which has become the new norm both socially and professionally, instructors can still create a collaborative classroom atmosphere.

“Because online meetings take place in a rather abstract space where there is little immediate student interaction with the professor(s) and other students, this can easily lead to low student participation,“ said Dr. Talcott. “An important first step is the use of interactive videos and other forms of personal messaging and communication to address students as people and encourage them to relate to you and each other humanely.

Dr. Talcott feels the temporary experience of teaching online will change how he and his fellow faculty approach instruction moving forward, whenever classes are ready to fully return to in-person education. Without the traditional office hours, or the ability to talk before or after class, faculty also have to make themselves readily available.

“Online teaching requires the instructor to be more willing to read messages, and chat and write responses several times throughout the day and night, whether it is addressing student concerns and questions about the course or assignments, submitting reminders and feedback, or providing words of encouragement,” said Dr. Tejani-Butt.

While online instruction may be new for some, for others, like Patricia Ingerick, MBA, MSHS, DEd, Director of Online Academics, the class offered the opportunity to reaffirm some of her existing techniques while also adopting new ones.

“Like many instructors who teach online, I have some set ways of doing things that seem to be working. However, the course pushed me to examine my pedagogical process and tools in a way that helped me to either adopt new teaching ideas or to reaffirm some of my existing techniques.”

After all, whether online or in-person, the ultimate goal does not change according to Dr. Ingerick.

“Making the time to reflect on my practice of teaching helps me to expand my view of what is possible, what is helpful, and what should be changed – all in an effort to create an engaging student experience that supports a solid framework for knowledge construction,” she said.

Categories: News, Faculty, Coronavirus, USciences Online