Friday, April 3, 2020

UIS Puts Its Hands-On Learning On Remote

Like many colleges, University of Illinois Springfield classes have transitioned to an online-only format to comply with the state’s efforts to combat the new coronavirus.

The transition has not been without difficulty for instructors. Some professors, by the very nature of what they teach, have run head-long into plenty of online obstacles.

Shane Harris is an associate professor of ceramics at UIS. He said teaching his ceramics course remotely is something he was a little apprehensive about. “I’ve been asked multiple times to teach online, but the reality is it’s a hands-on course,” Harris said. “You learn by making and doing and interacting, and, so, virtually it’s a lot more challenging to do that in my field.”

To keep it hands-on, Harris has had to figure out how to send physical art supplies to his students. His director told him to use department funds to pay for it. “So I ended up, with my student workers, called every single one of my students and asked them, ‘are you going to be back on campus? Can you pick up the clay? If not, then I am going to ship it to you,’” Harris said.

Harris said he’s not tech-savvy and says he never used the teaching website Blackboard before last week, but he said his students are helping him learn the ropes.

COLRS Director Vickie Cook said her department anticipated teachers quickly having to convert classes into a different medium. “Having that collapsed time to take what normally they would have several weeks to prepare, and in the middle of the semester, try to change tracks for modality is very difficult,” Cook said. Cook said the center has been helping teachers with the transition by introducing faculty to a bunch of different online teaching methods. ”And they’re doing that primarily through readings, interactive activities online that they’ve pulled together, videos that they have done or pulled together from other faculty in those same disciplines that have allowed their videos to be used,” Cook said.

Brian Chen is an assistant professor of public health at UIS. He attended the two workshops COLRS set up for faculty members to help prepare teachers for the transition. He said he learned how to connect to a VPN from his home when conducting class “[If] the faculty or instructor needs to work from home, they need to connect their office computers, then this is the knowledge they need to learn,” Chen said. He said instructors now have the choice to gather with students and interact in “real time” or to prepare course materials for students in advance. Now it’s in the students’ hands.

This story appeared on NPR Radio on April 2, 2020..

Read the entire article online.