By Claudia Zequeira
When the pandemic hit Central Florida, Amanda Kern, professor, graphic design, was on an airplane taking her son to see a doctor about a possible surgery. Little did she know that, upon returning home, the College would switch most of its classes to an online format in a matter of days.
For Amanda, the switch was not exactly a challenge. As a veteran online instructor, she has taught multiple online sections of courses such as Web Essentials, a class that teaches HTML coding and CSS, and other highly technical graphic design courses. But for her colleagues, the change came as a bit of a shock, she said.
“Colleagues who had avoided teaching online or using Canvas were now turning to me for support,” said Amanda. “Many were sharing that they wished they had listened to my encouraging nudge over the years to teach online or to use Canvas to supplement their course. Fortunately, it’s never too late to learn, and I admire so many of the faculty who have been thrown into this new world of teaching online who are now learning new teaching practices and technologies.”
Amanda, who worked through her bachelor’s degree from Savannah College of Art and Design online and has experienced the full potential of remote learning, spent the rest of her spring break coming up with a list of helpful resources for her colleagues. Amanda hopes this list, which is included below, can be used by others as a point of reference for successful online teaching.
Zooming with Colleagues
Although she had not used Zoom in the classroom prior to this crisis, Amanda did have several years of experience using it for her nonprofit work and in her studies at the University of Central Florida. During the crisis, she spent time with colleagues testing the conferencing application and sharing other tools they had access to, like Skype and Big Blue Button. However, Zoom turned out to be her team’s best option for conferences and meetings.
Zooming and Screencasting with Students and Faculty
Amanda now holds weekly Zoom meetings with her classes. She credits Valencia’s faculty development courses with her improved skills. She also schedules meetings using Calendly, a scheduling application that syncs with Zoom and allows her to share her “open hours.” When schedules don’t permit synchronous discussions remotely, students email questions and Amanda is able to record a screencast online to answer them. Videos can be sent easily through the Canvas inbox and are a convenient way to allow the student to review material as needed. Amanda also uses screencasts to help colleagues who have never taught online. In recent weeks, she has assisted some of them with setting up their Canvas courses.
Amanda relied on Slack, a team-based communication application, to connect with colleagues. She and other members of Valencia’s graphics division had created a group to communicate two years ago. Over the past month, the team has seen a huge uptick in interaction as faculty are turning to it to receive support, share tips and keep one another updated. Another group is also being used for graphics students. Known as the Slack Work Team, the group now serves as a portal for students to request assistance and communicate.
The Valencia Graphics YouTube Channel is increasingly being used to share instructional videos with students. Faculty, said Amanda, are now “excited with the possibilities this opportunity presents for them to ‘flip’ their classroom when we can return to the classroom so they can more effectively engage students.” Amanda added that lab assistants are currently helping faculty caption videos to ensure they are accessible.
Yac is a messaging application that enables teams to send asynchronous voice or screen-recorded messages to other team members. Amanda tried it at the suggestion of Reyna Perez, soon-to-be part-time faculty of graphic design.
“I’ve been able to share ideas, questions and thoughts more quickly than any other communication tool. It saves me so much time from having to export or upload screencasts and is a huge blessing when I have a thought to share but may be tired of typing,” she said.
Peer Review and Gradebook
Amanda said she is learning of new ways to offer feedback and improve use of her gradebook thanks to new Faculty Development course offerings.
“Even those of us who have been teaching online for years realize there’s always more to learn,” she said. “I’ve been excited to see new professional development opportunities.”
Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.