UTA faculty take on the challenge of transitioning to online classes

When UTA resumed classes Monday, teachers and students faced a new challenge: transferring all class material and instruction to online for the rest of the semester.

UTA extended its spring break by one week in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and students were encouraged to stay or return home. During the extension period, staff and faculty learned how to teach classes that weren’t meant to be online.

Peggy Semingson, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, prepared for online instruction before UTA went to spring break. She helped lead a workshop about teaching online, and she assisted teachers in preparing during the extended break.

On March 8, she created a series of videos on YouTube in which she offers tips and workshops on teaching online during a shutdown.

Semingson said in an email that she wanted to share ideas instructors might need to know about teaching online. The need for learning new ideas in a short amount of time motivated her to create the video series, which offers a broad overview.

“I covered topics like communicating with students, the different types of online learning and just general advice,” she said.

Most of the videos are less than 10 minutes long. Semingson said she made the videos short for attention span purposes.

“People don’t necessarily have time to watch hour-long videos during these weeks,” she said.

The three latest videos of the series capture Semingson speaking with several instructors about the shift to online teaching in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Semingson made the videos in her home’s living room with a green screen studio kit, a laptop, webcam and the Zoom video conferencing service. She completed some basic editing before uploading each video.

“I wanted to help faculty in a way that was easy to access,” she said. “I also like making my videos public in case other people can benefit.”

It is crucial for instructors and students to communicate with each other in an online instruction setting, she said. Instructors need a plan to check in with students through Canvas, email or a different avenue.

“With face-to-face classes, you can make announcements during class,” she said. “With online, one has to have a communication plan.”

While the series is for instructors, Semingson plans to work on a set of videos for students who will be completing their work online.

Information systems junior Ceasar Hataie is taking five classes this spring, and he’s adjusted to the online-only instruction well. He had taken five classes online in a previous semester, so he has experience, he said in an email.

Hataie has sleep apnea and his CPAP machine is at home so when he feels sleepy, he can take a nap. While he was attending classes on campus, he often felt drowsy during classes, which is a symptom of sleep apnea.

He often teaches himself course material because his drowsiness prevents him from learning in class.

Adrian Parr, College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs dean, has shifted her focus to fostering a sense of community through the internet. She said in an email that she meets daily with CAPPA staff and administration, and she’s planned other functions to increase engagement across the college.

She held a virtual chat Thursday afternoon to connect with CAPPA students and a virtual happy hour for UTA staff and faculty on Friday. She said she wanted to check in on the students.

“This is more about their emotional wellbeing, which I am very worried about, as this situation is understandably taking a terrible toll on some folks,” Parr said.

She created a new “CAPPAcares” campaign for the college and recorded a welcome back video for students that lists resources they may find helpful.

“These are all modest efforts to attempt to build, as best we can under the current circumstances, our virtual community,” Parr said.

@colby_farr

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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