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When COVID-19 was recognized as a major health threat in March, the University of New Hampshire was forced to close its campus for the first time in its 154-year history and shift to online learning.
UNH Academic Technology (AT) is the hub of instructional design and technology at the university. It is the driver behind efforts to move instruction online, assisting students and faculty. During the days leading up to the COVID-19 shutdown, one phrase emerged that would define the work of AT for the immediate future: instructional continuity … or how to maintain teaching and learning when the classroom lights go out.
Transitioning to Online Instruction
On March 18, UNH President James W. Dean announced the suspension of all in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester. Faculty, students, and support staff made the switch to online learning with flexibility, patience, and creativity.
Although there are many potential tools for online instruction, AT focused on three: myCourses for modules, quizzes, assignments and class discussions; Zoom for meetings and office hours; and Kaltura for recording and posting lectures.
UNH employs 1,323 faculty. Reviewing pre-COVID-19 data, AT found:
Although these numbers revealed some promise, they also showed there was much work to do in the way of training and support.
By the Numbers: March v. February
Setting Up the Starting Blocks
President Dean’s announcement had come during spring break, and many faculty took the opportunity to stay local and gain their online instructional bearings.
AT kicked off faculty engagement with a series of informational meetings, followed by break-out sessions to help faculty revise their course syllabuses. An online Instructional Continuity course also was launched to provide faculty with easy access to the resources they might need.
In short, the faculty needed a road map to navigate online teaching, and AT provided the required instructional design help and technological knowledge.
Putting it All Into Play
Here is a synopsis of the support AT and its partners provided to faculty and students since instruction moved online in late March:
James Mcllroy is the director for the Sales Center and lecturer for the Marketing Department at the UNH Peter T. Paul College of Business & Economics. During spring break, Mcllroy took advantage of AT’s training and resources in preparation for teaching online.
“Thanks to Academic Technology and the existing availability of Zoom and myCourses, UNH Sales has been able to continue its mission of serving students by helping them build critical skills for their future and connecting them with current business professionals for networking and career opportunities,” Mcllroy said. “We did not skip a beat while hosting our first two all virtual sales competitions with hundreds of role-plays and learning opportunities with students and our partner companies.”
Eun Kyeong Cho is an associate professor of education for the College of Liberal Arts. Cho leveraged many technology tools in creative ways to get her students to interact with each other and respond to assignments.
“I use multiple technology platforms to meet diverse needs of students,” Cho said. “Reading materials, discussion questions, and class activities are available in class modules and discussion forums. Students are asked to respond to the questions in a discussion forum and reply to other students’responses before starting the class session. In class, students can then engage in more enriching discussions based on what they already have read, responded, and reviewed from each other's responses.”
Stormy Gleason provides technology support for faculty in the College of Liberal Arts.
“In the first two weeks, the majority of our requests were related to Zoom,” Gleason said. “Once it became clear this would be a longer event, the requests became more varied as people took inventory of what tools they had and what they needed to continue rather than temporarily postpone the work at hand. The constant through this has been that providing the information or deliverable on its own isn’t enough — the encouragement colleagues get from knowing we’re invested in their success and that there’s a team behind them that believes in them is just as important.”
Moving forward, AT will continue its efforts to support students and faculty wherever they may be, whether it’s in the home office, on couches, or in the kitchen.