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Adapting to a More Digital Classroom

September 18, 2020

COVID-19 did something no one thought possible: it basically closed the whole globe. After months of shut-down, social distancing and wearing face coverings, countries, states and cities are beginning to reopen and begin a new normal. Universities across the world also closed due to this virus and have changed their curriculum and the way that students learn in the classroom. How does this affect college students? Idaho State University is taking a number of steps to keep students, faculty and staff safe while still ensuring that students are getting the education that was promised to them. 

For starters, many college campuses are creating more opportunities for online learning or a mix of online/in-person courses. Almost all classes offer the choice to attend online and this massive shift has not only affected students, but professors as well. Many professors had to now convert lectures they planned on giving in person to either an online format or use a streaming service to allow them to give the lecture online. “One of the positive but difficult aspects of this situation is that it has resulted in us being more innovative in how we deliver instruction. Performance-based programs, such as music and theatre, have learned new ways to offer experiences for students and audiences. Our health professions students have received unprecedented training in telehealth, a concept that will serve them well in the future,” said President Kevin Satterlee about the university adapting to the new format.  Some professors have even completely changed how they teach their courses like management professor Dr.Tyler Burch. He started teaching his courses as he normally would with lectures over Zoom and found that it was not effective in engaging students. He then reformulated his class to utilize the breakout room function in Zoom and began to instead use class time for discussions which not only enabled him to teach the material better and increase student engagement but also increased connectivity between students which he says is something that is really needed. “I found mastering the breakout room is a key tool. In breakout rooms, students are more responsive and get to interact with their teacher and peers better,” said Burch about his new method.

Many professors have also expressed thanks to the Instructional Technology Resource Center (ITRC) as they have been integral to helping staff and faculty adjust to the new changes. “The ITRC folks have been invaluable in helping me adapt to the current environment. Their dedication, expertise and especially their patience have been remarkable and invaluable,” says accounting professor Bob Picard about the transition to online learning. The ITRC is designed to help faculty utilize technology to maximize learning potential in their classrooms. During the pandemic, the ITRC has also been a valuable resource in helping faculty navigate programs they may be unfamiliar with like Moodle and Zoom as well as other online resources.

Campus wide initiatives made by President Kevin Satterlee are working to stop the spread of COVID-19 but also keep students learning in a productive environment. Some initiatives are  providing face coverings for all students, creating social distancing measures for the classroom, as well as distributing financial help as extended by the CARES act. He has also created a resource webpage for students and faculty alike as well as sending out regular emails with updates to the situation. 

Changes will continue to be made as guidelines change to reflect new information. If you have questions or need information, please visit the Roaring Back website at Stay safe and stay healthy Bengals!