Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning Continues to Provide Support as Faculty Near the End of the Semester
Baylor ATL shares advice and resources across the University for faculty as they teach remotely
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WACO, Texas (April 27, 2020) – When COVID-19 concerns led to the difficult but necessary decision to move all courses online, Baylor faculty found themselves having to quickly adapt to a remote-class format. With a few weeks left in the semester, Lenore Wright, director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning and associate professor in the Honors College, urges faculty to continue to utilize available resources.
Collaboration between Baylor’s Information Technology Services (ITS), Libraries and Academic Technology Services (LATS) and the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) made for incredible training and resources for faculty and students with a surprisingly smooth transition to an online learning environment.
“We encourage faculty to be creative about ways for students to show what they know, confer with colleagues for tips and trouble-shooting advice, reach out to support staff in non-academic units—ATL, ITS, Institute for Faith and Learning, University Libraries—for expert guidance,” Wright said, “and take advantage of available resources to learn more about best practices in remote teaching and learning.”
While Baylor faculty have now been teaching remotely since March 23, the demand for fast-paced adaption to an online-only environment hasn’t stopped. Many resources available to Baylor faculty offer help, particularly during this time of stress.
In a short Q&A, Wright explained that the ATL’s overarching aim is to help students and faculty feel supported, and shared advice and resources for faculty who are continuing to navigate online teaching during COVID-19.
Q: The transition to remote teaching and working happened quickly. What does ATL’s faculty support look like now?
Wright: As always, the ATL stands ready to support and inspire teaching at Baylor. Faculty with any question can simply contact the ATL (firstname.lastname@example.org). If we don’t know the answer, we can find out who does.
The ATL offers a Buddy System. If any faculty member wants dedicated help with the demands of remote learning, we can partner him or her with another faculty member, an ATL staff member or one of our wonderful graduate fellows.
Faculty who are in need of social support and peer feedback during this shift can also take part in the Online Teaching Commons—video conference meetings with other faculty.
Q: Are there any tips that faculty members should keep in mind during this time?
Wright: Less is more. Do not attempt to replicate every element of your in-person course in an online environment. Be willing to let go of a few things in terms of content or assessments. Remember that we lost a week of class, and students are managing significant disruptions to their personal lives and educational experiences (and are feeling, like all of us, the stress of the current situation). Resist compounding their stress (and your stress) with elaborate assignments or delivery methods.
Consider asynchronous assignments and activities so that those in different time zones—or those with new daily schedules—are not disadvantaged.
Communicate clearly and often. Be open to alternative means of communication for students who may have less reliable or fast internet access; for example, email, phone or announcements on learning management systems like Canvas.
Q: What are some resources faculty can turn to?
Wright: Faculty who are concerned about how community is formed and nurtured in online learning can view our Teaching Guide on Socialization in Online Learning.
The ATL has worked closely with University administration and the Library and Academic Technology Services (LATS) division on Baylor’s KeepTeaching website initiative.
The ATL understands that faculty’s approach to final exams likely looks different this year. We have created Re-thinking Finals for Emergency Remote Instruction, a resource that offers advice on administering traditional exams online as well as more flexible alternatives to the traditional exam format.
The ATL had already been instrumental in the formulation of an online teaching professional development plan for the future. We have continued this collaboration with LATS, the Teaching and Learning Technology Committee and experienced online faculty to adapt that work for emergency remote teaching and continued remote teaching as circumstances dictate. These resources, anchored in the LATS Instructional Design team’s PRESTO series, will be rolling out soon.
Q: You are a faculty member yourself. Have you learned anything during this time that may be helpful to other faculty members?
Wright: Yes. Soliciting regular feedback from students about what is working well and not working well in their courses has enabled me to make informed adjustments. For instance, breaking assignments into small chunks creates a more manageable workload and pace for students.
Online discussion boards or real-time Zoom or Web-ex meetings that occur during scheduled class times are great options for seminar-style courses.
Revised assessment methods can facilitate the achievement of learning objectives more successfully. Students can demonstrate learning in a variety of ways: discussion forums, low-stakes quizzes, blogs, etc. Letting go of high-stakes exams eases student anxiety without sacrificing learning.
Finally, we encourage students and faculty to engage in positive self-care. Teaching and learning remotely expends energy quickly. Recharge—at a safe social distance.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.