HGSE to Offer a Fully Online Experience in 2020–21 - Harvard Graduate School of Education

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HGSE to Offer a Fully Online Experience in 2020–21 - Harvard Graduate School of EducationHGSE to Offer a Fully Online Experience in 2020–21 - Harvard Graduate School of EducationPosted: 03 Jun 2020 07:30 AM PDT Dean Bridget Long announced today that the Harvard Graduate School of Education will offer a fully online learning experience during the academic year 2020–2021. The school will craft a rich suite of online courses and co-curricular experiences designed to incorporate the best and most innovative digital learning practices, including direct access to instructors and peers, thoughtful and engaging asynchronous and synchronous learning opportunities, and significant curricular flexibility. Drawing from lessons learned this past spring, the school is also designing new approaches to building community, prioritizing HGSE's signature cohort-driven model of learning and professional growth.>> Read the full text of Dean Bridget Long's announcement of HGSE's plans for …

Colleges Go To Pass-Fail Due To Coronavirus Concerns: What Does This Mean For Students - Forbes

Colleges Go To Pass-Fail Due To Coronavirus Concerns: What Does This Mean For Students - Forbes


Colleges Go To Pass-Fail Due To Coronavirus Concerns: What Does This Mean For Students - Forbes

Posted: 30 Mar 2020 05:57 AM PDT

Whether you're a child in grade school, an adult with a 9-5 job, or a college student working toward an undergraduate or graduate degree, it's very likely 2020 is a year you'll never forget. With entire states and countries on virtual lockdown, most non-essential businesses closed down almost nationwide, and travel brought to a screeching halt for weeks on end so far, so much about our lives has changed in a fairly short amount of time. Kids are out of school for the remainder of the year in many states, and more employees than ever are working at home — many for the first time.

By and large, almost all colleges are also shuttered, although some schools have let students remain on campus since that's where they live. Fortunately, many colleges already had robust online learning programs that paved the way for even more learning to transition to the web. Plus, students who were already taking all their courses online, which is likely well over 15 percent according to reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, may not have noticed much of a change at all. 

But, what about colleges where students aren't taking most of their courses online? According to a recent report from Inside Higher Ed, an increasing number of schools are moving to a pass-fail system in order to help students move through the remainder of the school year without negative consequences due to coronavirus.

Colleges Make The Tough Call

Pass-fail grading allows students to be given a "pass" or "fail" grade for each course they take instead of a traditional letter grade, yet this situation is normally fairly rare.

With coronavirus leading to closures and major disruptions in higher education nationwide, however, many schools have decided to make courses pass-fail, or to offer students the option of a letter grade instead. 

As an example, Duke University is offering a pass-fail option to students for the Spring 2020 semester, yet undergraduate students still have the option to receive a letter grade if they prefer it. 

"The unprecedented challenges imposed by COVID-19 require us to consider novel ways to support the curricular efforts of our undergraduate students and faculty," writes Duke in an online announcement that was also sent to students via email. "This is a moment that has been characterized by widespread anxiety, uncertainty, social, and geographic disruption. As academic leaders of this great university, we believe that bold action is necessary to maximize undergraduates' curricular engagement."

They also note that, given this shift and the fact many students won't be receiving letter grades, they will suspend the Dean's List for the Spring 2020 semester.

A similar story is unfolding at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where the school admits that, like so many others, they are in "an unprecedented situation," faced with decisions that they have not navigated before.

UW Madison students also have the option to select a pass-fail grade until May 22nd, which is 8 days after the final grade deadline. 

"Under our new policies, just as before, students will receive a grade for any class they take, but also have the option to replace that grade with an alternative COVID-19 P/F grade for courses where this is allowable," they write. "We seek to extend this opportunity to most courses, undergraduate and graduate, but there will be exceptions, such as when strict program degree requirements or accreditor rules prohibit it.  We will work to minimize these exceptions."

Plenty of other colleges have already followed suit, but students continue trying to urge additional schools to adopt this grading policy using the Twitter hashtag #PassFailNation. Over the next few weeks, it's very possible many other colleges and universities will also make similar moves in order to keep their students on track toward their educational goals.

The Pros And Cons Of Pass-Fail

Nobody could have envisioned what has happened to college campuses — and really, our planet — just a few months ago, yet so much has changed. Without pass-fail policies, many college students worry they will wind up with lower grades based on lack of access that isn't even remotely their fault.

For example, a petition on Change.org from Georgetown University states that, while online conferencing with Zoom is being used to make up for the lack of classroom access, this doesn't replace personal meetings with professors and TAs. Not only that, but lack of campus access means no library, no consortium access, no entry into college labs, no use of practice rooms, and more. 

Therefore, "offering a pass/fail option for classes of a student's choosing for the semester helps alleviate some of the stresses caused by measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19," reads the petition. "Georgetown students are driven and passionate but even under the right circumstances, the amount of work and engagement can be exhausting and detrimental to the general mental health of the student body."

That all makes sense, but there are some potential downsides for students who accept a pass-fail grade this semester.

While a pass grade won't harm your GPA, it may not look great on your college transcript, either. A "pass" grade shows you took the course, but it doesn't exactly drive home the point that you worked very hard.

Not only that, but pass-fail grades can be a major red flag for students who are applying for an advanced career program like a medical residency. 

That's probably why Duke University plans to include a designation on undergraduate students' transcripts "indicating the extraordinary circumstances encountered in the present semester."

Of course, anyone considering your college transcript will probably be well-versed in what went down in spring of 2020, and why many students will have a few pass-fail grades. In the end, this may not be a big deal at all. 

What About Financial Aid?

One of the scariest things for students who may see their college closing and have to accept a pass/fail grade is what happens to their financial aid awards? Does a "Pass" count towards satisfactory academic progress?

Luckily, the CARES Act that was just passed by Congress helps with this. The CARES Act allows colleges and universities to exclude from the minimum 2.0 GPA requirement for Satisfactory Academic Progress any attempted credits that were incomplete due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So, for students that were concerned about their GPA due to receiving Pass/Fail grades don't have anything to worry about.

The Bottom Line

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures to be taken, and that's exactly what is happening with colleges who have decided that a pass-fail system will have to be "good enough" this year. It's certainly not ideal, but nothing about the spring of 2020 has been ideal so far. 

Letting students flounder in uncertain situations would leave them considerably worse off, and in a world where it seems like something new is going wrong every day, that's just not fair. Paying for college isn't easy, so let's make sure our college students don't throw this semester's tuition down the drain.

A rapping professor. A cat in class. Pornography on Zoom. How online classes work at colleges during coronavirus - USA TODAY

Posted: 30 Mar 2020 03:03 AM PDT

CLOSE

College teachers and students discuss some of the challenges they face as their classes move online for the foreseeable future. USA TODAY

Mark Naison, 73, had just days to move online his decades-old class, a history of music from rock 'n' roll to hip-hop. He wasn't sure how to preserve the raucous spirit of the course, but he had an answer that had worked for him in the past. 

"I can make a fool of myself," he said. 

The technology, mainly the video-streaming software Zoom, was unfamiliar to him. Without a physical presence in the classroom, the professor at Fordham University wondered how he would keep his students' attention. He wasn't sure how to use the music videos he had played live in class. He knew it was important to keep students' spirits up as they struggled to adjust from in-person courses on a campus of friends to the isolation of distance learning. 

So he filmed himself rapping. His material included odes to social distancing, hand-washing and self-quarantining.

He is not the fastest rapper, but his rhymes mostly work. And his students seem to appreciate the lengths he is willing to get a laugh. 

Imani Del Valle, a senior at the university in the Bronx in New York City, said Naison was one of few among her professors who acknowledged the anxiety students face.

As for the rapping videos, "they actually make you laugh, and I think that's what we kind of all need right now with everything going on," she said.

That "everything" for students such as Del Valle includes transitioning to a new class format they hadn't anticipated at the semester's beginning, as well as dealing with the general distress caused by the spread of the coronavirus. She lives in New York City, one of the areas hit hardest by the outbreak. 

The USA counted more than 144,000 cases of coronavirus by Monday afternoon, the world's highest total, and there were more than 2,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

In early March, colleges across the country canceled in-person classes en masse, mostly switching to digital courses.  

For many of those colleges, the first week was anything but smooth. Along with the transition to digital classes, universities told students to clear the dorms. Many scrapped traditional grades in favor of some form of pass-fail. Graduation ceremonies are canceled or postponed. 

Instructors may deal with new technologies and ways of teaching that leave them uncomfortable. Their students are very likely spread across multiple time zones, which can make scheduling a challenge. Some students lack decent internet connections or up-to-date technology.

The result is not necessarily the best example of online learning – distance courses, like in-person classes, take months to plan effectively. Perfect or not, it's the reality of pursuing a college degree for millions of students. 

The future of college: Colleges scrambled to react to the pandemic. Now, their very existence is in jeopardy

In one online class, a yellow cat

Friday morning, five College of William and Mary students – some of them in focus, others a bit blurry – followed along via Zoom as Professor David Feldman drew economic models on a whiteboard. He asked periodically if the class could see the board. They nodded yes as he continued drawing. 

Watching Feldman alone was like being in any college classroom in America. Then, on one of the students' screens, a door slowly swung open. A furry yellow cat popped into the student's lap. 

Hardly anyone noticed, and the rest of Feldman's lecture went off without a hitch. Students were even able to break off into digital groups to talk about local and national economies. 

Zoom has an option to ping the instructor, a digital raising of the hand. Most of the students opted instead to raise their hands in real life. Feldman could spot them easily.

After an hour, their cameras snapped off. For Feldman, digital lectures allow him to provide almost all the information he would have been able to share in person. That's not representative of higher education as a whole, he acknowledged.A dance or auto mechanic class, for example, wouldn't translate in the same way. 

Some have suggested, he said, this may be a time to determine how effective higher education is at teaching students online, but that would be a mistake. The circumstances are extreme, and most professors have had only days or a couple of weeks to prepare for the change. What's more, any suggestion that switching to online classes will save universities money is incorrect.

For one, they still have to pay tenured professors such as Feldman toteach the classes. It also costs universities money to afford the infrastructure to roll out the classes. 

"The quality is going to go down, and the cost is going to go up," he said. 

Pornography on a class screen

If Feldman's class is the best-case example, then the worst might be student Ian Castle's experience during an online class from the State University of New York at Albany.

He was unsure of what to expect for his course, "Information in the 21st Century," but it quickly became clear putting the course online would be a problem. 

Within Zoom, he said, someone had posted pornography on a shared screen. Racial slurs followed shortly after. The person responsible remained disruptive, Castle said, by swearing and harassing students in the chat channel. Eventually, the professor gave up. About 15 minutes in, she apologized and canceled the class. 

"I'm really frustrated because it kind of seemed like we're back in middle school," Castle  said. "It was just frustrating that one to two students, or however many were doing it, were ruining it for a whole class." 

Experiences such as Castle's have been reported at universities nationally. Zoom published a guide to stave off bad behavior. Castle's class meets only once a week. He said his mother taught him to view every class as a portion of the tuition paid, so he feels cheated out of both instructional time and money. (The professor later sent out a recording of the lecture.)

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, a spokesman for the university, said it was aware of a class disrupted by racial slurs, and its IT department was working to identify the person responsible. The university changed the default settings on Zoom sessions and instructed faculty to make sure only students have access to the classes. 

"For context, we have about 1,000 scheduled classes on Tuesdays this semester, Carleo-Evangelist said. "Given the short turnaround, we are incredibly proud of how well our faculty have risen to the unprecedented challenge of so quickly converting their classes to remote instruction." 

Castle, like many students, said he learns more from in-person instruction. He misses being with his friends and taking advantage of campus amenities. He and his girlfriend had just started attending the gym regularly, and now they're trying workarounds at home such as pushups. For weights, he turns to his textbooks. 

Though he is frustrated, Castle said he realizes his situation may be one of the easier ones to handle.

"I imagine there's a lot of students who, although they can afford going to college, cannot afford things such as WiFi, a laptop, a nice pair of headphones, or who don't even have access to a quiet place to study," he said.

Juggling child care, missing graduations

Beyond technical challenges are the disruptions to a person's life caused by the coronavirus.

Vanessa Fonseca-Chávez, an English professor at Arizona State University, said many of the institution's students work in the service industry and are out of work as a result of the virus.

One of her students said her child was suddenly trying to learn at home. The student joked she didn't know who would pass their classes, her or her 6-year-old. 

Part of making things more bearable for students is altering the expectations for what they need to do. Fonseca-Chávez was teaching a graduate-level course this semester that met only once a week for three hours. She knew that was not going to work online. 

"That seems awful to put it very bluntly," she said. "Both for the students and for myself." 

She shifted some of their discussions of literary texts to online message boards. Presentations that were meant to be in front of the class have been shortened significantly. 

For the most part, the students seem to grasp the tweaks to the class, she said. One emailed her to ask if she was using the course's message boards correctly. 

"I said, 'Really, I'm just looking for the best that you can give right now.' We can't have the same expectations of them," Fonseca-Chávez said. "You know, our world is a little bit turned upside down right now." 

Del Valle, the Fordham senior, is also adjusting. She lives with her father, mother and three siblings, which can be hectic. Her mother is also in college, and she hasn't handled the transition to digital classes as well. 

"I'm like a tech expert for her," Del Valle said. 

She assumed the transition to digital classes would be simple for her and her peers, since they grew up familiar with video chat technology. The challenge, she said, is relying on the programs to work or finding a decent internet connection. 

This is Del Valle's last year of undergraduate studies, and it's unclear whether the university will host its commencement ceremony.

Normally, Del Valle, 21, would be on campus enjoying the last few weeks of the semester. Instead, she is at home. Amid stay-at-home orders and a tanking economy, her plans for the future, possibly graduate school and moving to Virginia with her fiance, are on hold. She lamented that she can't attend events such as job fairs on campus that might have offered her a sense of what she could do next. 

"You can't relive your last semester of your senior year," she said. "I've just been sitting here in my room thinking of all the times I took for granted." 

Will small colleges make it? They were already on the brink. Now, they're threatened by coronavirus

Education coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation does not provide editorial input.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2020/03/30/coronavirus-zoom-online-class-college-students-graduation/2929592001/

Purdue launches online analytics degree - Purdue News Service

Posted: 12 Mar 2020 12:00 AM PDT

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University's Krannert School of Management will begin offering an online Master of Science in Business Analytics in fall 2020.

The degree is aimed at working professionals. Students will receive broad exposure to various functional areas of business and how they use information to make more informed decisions. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the need for business analysts to increase 14% by 2024, and this degree will prepare participants for a wide variety of roles within the industry. 

"We are proud to offer the number one-ranked residential data science program in the country, according to CIO magazine, and our business analytics faculty are consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally by U.S. News & World Report," said David Hummels, the Dr. Samuel R. Allen Dean of the Krannert School. "Those same faculty are now offering an online business analytics program that is rigorous and relevant to working professionals.

"The demand for technical and analytical expertise is exploding. With this degree, we'll be able to expand our reach far beyond our campus boundaries and help meet this tremendous need."

The program can be completed in three semesters. It will provide students with skills to work in cross-disciplinary teams and across functional boundaries. It features immersion electives in specific areas, such as disruptive technologies in artificial intelligence. Participants also may take a practicum course to implement the knowledge they have learned in other courses. Future plans for the program include specialized tracks such as supply chain analytics, marketing analytics, cybersecurity and data science. 

Professor Dilip Chhajed, associate dean for online programs, said typical courses in the program will consist of case studies, class discussions and exercises to maximize peer-to-peer learning. An emphasis will be placed on both technologies and techniques, twin requirements in the emerging world of big data, according to a recent McKinsey & Co. report.

Students will work in close connection with the Krenicki Center for Business Analytics and Machine Learning, which offers data analytics-oriented initiatives spanning all areas of business and economics. Participants also will be able to take advantage of Purdue's many resources in data analytics, including the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS), one of the world's leading research and education centers in information security. CERIAS will collaborate with the Krannert School in developing courses for the online program.

"This program takes advantage of Purdue's strong STEM reputation while also capitalizing on synergies at the Krannert School," Chhajed says. "Students will enhance their critical analytical thinking and communication skills, and they will be able to do so without a disruption to their careers or their families."

Learn more information about the Master of Business Analytics degree or enroll in the program online.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today's toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Media contact: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541, paul102@purdue.edu

Writer: Tim Newton, tnewton@purdue.edu

Sources: David Hummels, hummelsd@purdue.edu

Dilip Chhajed, dchhajed@purdue.edu

Dispatches from the First Week of Online Learning - UPJ Athletics

Posted: 30 Mar 2020 10:54 AM PDT

a screenshot of a female instructor using Zoom with a chat featureOn March 11, the University of Pittsburgh announced that to minimize risk to the community amidst an unfolding global pandemic, it would be replacing in-person instruction with online and alternative learning options at all five of its campuses.

After having a week to prepare, classes resumed Monday, March 23, and while challenging, instructors rose to the occasion and are largely reporting a smooth transition.

"This would not have been an easy shift under the simplest of circumstances," said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd in a message to faculty and students, "but to make it while experiencing the stresses and uncertainties of a pandemic is an incredible feat. I truly appreciate the support you have all given one another, your shared commitment to forge ahead, and your willingness to 'figure it all out' together."

So, how are folks adapting? What's working? What are some common struggles with this "new normal?" Pittwire asked around.

On adjusting to the tech

Zoom is by and large the platform Pitt professors are using to host online classes. Pitt has licensed the Pro version.

"Overall, I think the first week has gone pretty well, all things considered. I especially used the 'Breakout Rooms' feature in Zoom; in my graduate statistics class, students were able to divide in small groups to solve an in-class activity together. I was able to hop into each of the rooms and watch as students used voice chat and screen sharing to collaboratively solve statistics problems."

Scott Fraundorf, assistant professor of psychology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences

"Pitt has a special course where freshman engineers take a composition course for entire year and it's blended in with freshman seminar in engineering. Myself and a couple other faculty members go in and present only about once every three weeks out of the year. The rest of the year, we're grading papers remotely anyway. So, not a ton has changed for us. I recorded my lecture. But the biggest change is learning how to use Zoom for lectures. I typically make my slides available after lectures anyway. I never used it before, but I was so impressed. It made a transcript of what I said and it was synced and integrated when I was finished."

Katy Rank Lev, instructor, composition program in the Department of English

"One nice thing about a 40-something year-old person like myself teaching 20-somethings is that they have lots of experience using social communication tools online," said Ray Jones, clinical professor of business administration in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. Five of his students quickly suggested workarounds through GroupMe when one of his classes faced technical difficulties with Zoom.

RJ Thompson, associate director of student engagement in the business school, is teaching marketing this semester. He reports that fellow faculty mostly are recording lectures in advance to avoid any live technical issues. For his part, Thompson is recording "Talks with Thompson" videos with marketing, communications and design professionals. He's using these with his students, posting on social media as well as on CourseWeb, and also sharing the content with teaching colleagues nationally who may be short on course content.

On timing

"We have numerous students working in other time zones, so the lab I coordinate has gone asynchronous. We held our first Zoom open check-in meeting [Tuesday], which went well. Students were able to share their screens and get help with a major upcoming assignment. They were in good spirits overall but are feeling a lot of anxiety over how their classes will go. Some are reporting that they haven't heard from all of their professors just yet but are waiting to hear what to do. Some students still have courses that are meeting synchronously and this is causing time conflicts for some courses. We are keeping a close watch on when students access our course Canvas page and plan to reach out to students who don't access the page by Wednesday. We are hoping that we can reach the students through their academic advisors if they aren't responding to emails. We're assuming some students may not be able to communicate with us due to lack of access to technology."

Kristen Butela, faculty member in biological sciences

Assistant professor of social work Cynthia Bradley-King reports that she's hosting class asynchronously, "but I am having office hours by phone/email during class time for individualized instruction if needed."

On accessibility

Thoughts from Angie Bedford-Jack, digital accessibility coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh:

Overall I'd say things have gone pretty smoothly. It's a testament to the work of the Center for Teaching and Learning and then obviously Disability Resource and Services (DRS) when it comes to students with disabilities.

Bedford-Jack in a blue collared shirtFor our students registered with DRS, particularly those with sensory impairments that we know the move to online would pose significant challenges for, I'd say we've had a successful first week. Some victories:

  • Turned on Ally (an accessibility assistant for learning management systems) in just under 50 courses. This will provide students in those classes with automatic access to alternative formats of course materials. It also provides me with important info about other accessibility aspects of the course so I can troubleshoot as needed.
  • Live captioning of Zoom meetings through a third-party vendor for students who need captions.
  • Captioning of any recorded lectures for students who need captions.

These three things are also what we spent the most time on this week—just identifying what each faculty member was using to teach their course, and then trying to develop streamlined workflows for the most common types of instruction.

Faculty have largely been responsive despite having a ton on their plates, and students have largely communicated to DRS that things are going well. There are some classes like chemistry or computer science where instruction is more visual in nature and is going to pose some challenges for our visually impaired students. But we know this and are working through it.

The other good news to move online is that we can focus on the content because most of the large-scale infrastructure that we're using for classes is accessible. Blackboard, Zoom, etc., are all strong when it comes to accessibility. So we aren't scrambling trying to deal with an inaccessible system. 

Faculty members or students with disability related questions can contact Bedford-Jack's team at drsrecep@pitt.edu.

In the humanities

"Teaching my first Zoom classes back-to-back on Monday (ENGLIT 1009/J.R.R. Tolkien and the Counterculture and ENGLIT 0645/Fantasy) was actually a lot of fun. Both classes were fully attended, students were on time and everyone seemed to be really engaged in what we were doing. I'm not particularly tech-savvy and found Zoom to be easy to use. For me, nothing beats the classroom, but this is working just fine. We had interesting and productive discussions about the material in both classes. I was exhausted at the end—but it was a good kind of tired—and I'm looking forward to more on Wednesday!"

Lori Campbell-Tanner, senior lecturer and academic advisor, Department of English and Film and Media Studies Program

"I've posted detailed text-only reading notes, which replace my lectures, and the students have a series of discussion prompts to respond to on Canvas. I've made everything asynchronous, and everything is based on the assumption that they have low bandwidth and limited quiet space. I've invited them to reach out to me if they want to chat by text or video. I'm posting announcements almost every day with some news or links so that they know I'm paying attention and thinking about them. Last week, to practice the discussion boards, I invited them to share pictures of their pets. That was fun! A number of them posted, some of them chatted with one another, and I responded to all of them."

Ruth Mostern, associate professor of History

Soudi in a dark jacket, white shirt and blue tie"In our first sessions this week, we spent the first portion going over how everyone was adjusting. Though I did check in with the students over break, it was nice to get to 'see' them, if only through video and audio, and communicate in real time. As expected, many are struggling with adjustments and having to rearrange their lives. They miss the social aspects of campus. I tried to approach today as if it were the first day of class, which in some senses it was, just with the advantage of already knowing my students. Together, we negotiated a new working consensus which will carry us through the rest of the semester. They are excited to work together. As regards our humanities at work program, we have been in contact with our amazing industry partners to accommodate interns to work remotely to complete their hours. Some partners even supplied interns with company laptops more than a week ago.
  
"Overall, students are adjusting to working from home. Remote teaching seems to be working. Attendance was at 95% in my first class, and 100% in the second. Some say that being next to family is great but presents new challenges for them in trying to balance work and family time. Some say it's hard to complete tasks and remain focused or motivated to do work in light of what's going on. But students welcomed the idea of holding only study time/library hour for our class once a week moving forward. I will be available during this time as well. We will also continue to hold regular synchronous classes as well. Previously scheduled guest speakers from the community will join us online."

Abdesalam Soudi, lecturer, Department of Linguistics

On inequalities

I am concerned about the inequality between my students. Some are definitely struggling to get consistent or high-quality internet. Some are back with families and multiple people living in small quarters and they are having trouble focusing as people come in and out of their view (you can see it on their faces while they are trying to watch class/interact). Others have very different situations. Some are currently unsure where their next paycheck and thus rent/food payment is coming from. Some are very nervous about graduating in a few months and there being no jobs.

While Zoom is not 'hard' per se I was amazed at the mental energy it took to run the slides, lecture, look at all the videos of students, break them into groups, move between the groups as the instructor to hear what was going on, pay attention to the chat I was having them engage in, use the polls, and watch for their virtual hand, thumbs up, etc...

Faculty member, Department of Sociology

Students struggling with consistent internet access should contact Pitt IT for resources and help. Students experiencing financial difficulties can contact Student Affairs for assistance.

In graduate programs

Jennifer A. Pruskowski, assistant professor of pharmacy and therapeutics, reported "great feedback" from the student pharmacists in oncology after a synchronized Zoom meeting. "We utilized the live chat function for questions and pool questions to interact. They liked the fact they still have a schedule and being able to ask questions in real time. It was more interesting and helped normalize."

"My feeling is that I am glad that I front load and that I also spent time establishing relationships in the beginning and also deliberately creating group climate in the first few weeks. I think that this would be much more difficult had I not spent that time (which sometimes I question because it means that some content is not delivered). Trust in me and in each other was established, and while this certainly has been a challenging time, they have continued to communicate with me and each other and I don't feel that they are terribly anxious.

"I'm surprised at how much I miss my students and advisees! I was so happy to see their faces yesterday—and their pets. It's strange but I had not realized it and I'm really sorry to not see those I've taught or advised graduate. Ceremony and ritual are important and I'm starting to realize that."

Mary Beth Rauktis, research assistant professor, School of Social Work

Joseph Hornak in the School of Law learned the ropes of online courses in preparation for the first Human Resource Law online certificate program, launched this fall.

"As someone whose prior experience with online programs was mainly asynchronous, he said, 'My biggest question about online education before was: How do I maintain a level of student interaction comparable to the classroom setting?' In an asynchronous course, I was pleased to see how often my students emailed me regarding course topics (and program concerns), but I was especially pleased with how the discussion board got students involved in a way that was comparable to the classroom setting. In some ways, it was superior to the classroom setting, because you could require every student (as opposed to just calling on those who raised their hands in class) to participate in the discussion and also require them to comment on at least one of their fellow student's contribution to the discussion.

"You can still have email and a discussion board in the synchronous courses that I find myself teaching now due to the coronavirus pandemic, but I'm also trying to encourage some discussion in the live classes (the smaller the class size, the better). I try to pause with every PowerPoint slide change to allow for questions and comments (with students remembering to unmute their microphones). Some students use the Raise Hand feature on Zoom, which is easier for me to spot than Zoom chat room questions/comments (I have a hard time accessing the chat room when I'm sharing the screen with PowerPoint and have PowerPoint in full screen mode). I also try to open the meeting 10 minutes before the class actually starts, and that allows for me to talk to the early arrivals and see how they are doing during this crisis."

Watch for more on how laboratory-based classes are adjusting in a future story.

Helpful resources

Check out a list of IT resources to support remote work and a helpful blog from Pitt IT that's updated weekly with tips and tools—everything from cybersecurity reminders to how to turn your home office into your Pitt office.

Virtual Computing Labs give students access to most of the software available in physical locations of student computing labs on campus. Log in to a virtual machine using a web browser or the Remote Desktop Client app for Windows, iOS and Android services. Staff can also request access to virtual desktops for working remotely.

Emergency.pitt.edu and the Center for Teaching and Learning both have the most up-to-date information and resources for faculty, staff and students to learn more about this remote academic landscape.

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