After having only a week to switch from in-person teaching to online teaching in March, many professors took advantage of the extra time before summer school started to better prepare for online teaching.
After the The university announced on April 1 that summer courses will be online, instructors have started reviewing resources provided by the university in preparation for the summer school start on May 26.
In April, Bruce Lenthall, executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, said there had been a 2,000% increase in staff viewing the centre’s website services. He said CTL staff, who provide resources to help faculty “excel in their teaching,” have ensured instructors receive adequate support during the transition to online learning formats.
FNCE 100 corporate finance professor Ronel Elul said he attended CTL sessions that focused on technical aspects of online education, such as running video conferencing software and facilitating online exams.
To prepare the virtual instruction for its design summer of traditionally practical MEAM 415 products class, Professor Clay Burns said he consulted with the instructors who had taught the class in the spring and also assisted workshops, including a one-on-one conversation on planning virtual education. He said a challenge he faced was to create strategies to preserve the student interaction aspect of the virtual Classes.
Since there was more time to prepare for online education compared to the rapid transition to virtual education in the spring, Burns said. he was able to completely redesign the program to better respond to the challenges posed by online learning. He chose to reduce class time, preserve synchronous sessions for student interaction, integrate interactive homework on Canvas, and add an asynchronous part to the class that included pre-recorded workshop-like videos to teach lessons. skills such as sketching.
Like Burns, Elul pursued a similar strategy to ensure that synchronous sessions would preserve peer interactions and the application of course content.
Lenthall noted that instructors already had a long-standing desire to use class time to activities and reserve time outside of class for independent preparation, as in Structured, Active and Classroom Learning (SAIL) courses. Lenthall added that the online learning environment has likely accelerated the move towards the SAIL model, which involves the use of classroom time for interaction with students.
After finding strong levels of student-teacher engagement during the first week, ACCT 101 Acct and Financial Report professor Kevin Chen said he realized that surveys on classroom materials were an effective way to encourage student interaction and ensure students understand equipment.
When it comes to classes that traditionally require in-person presence, such as lab and studio classes, Lenthall said he’s seen significant effort and creativity on the part of instructors.
Lenthall added that for the summer, many professors sent lab kits to their students and scheduled live lab sessions where professors would broadcast each other by performing lab activities with student guidance.
In studio classes such as MEAM 415, Burns gave students more flexibility in designing their final product by allowing them to create a virtual environment, such as building an application or other software. Burns also said he created groups that sought to meet the different skill levels of students and their access to equipment and technology.
For the fall, Lenthall said, The CTL is constantly adjusting the resources available to faculty and graduate students as Penn’s summer faculty provide feedback. He added that the resources available in the spring were primarily aimed at facilitating the rapid transition to online education, while the resources currently being introduced are aimed at teaching staff how to deliberately plan their courses over a longer period of time.
From June 1 to the end of July, CTL allows instructors to register for a Canvas course which aims to guide teachers in the design of online courses. Lenthall said around 240 instructors have already signed up for the course.
While online learning will continue throughout the summer and possibly into the fall, Professors Elul and Burns said there is still a need for in-person instruction.
“Everything that has happened confirms how valuable residential education is,” Lenthall said.