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Catapulting WVU into higher ed’s new normal of teaching and learning

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Through course planning, contingency preparedness and one-one-one assistance, the West Virginia University Teaching and Learning Commons’ Fall Hybrid Teaching Institute is sharing its most reliable tools and strategies for a successful Fall semester. (WVU Photo/Jennifer Shepherd)

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Hybrid. HyFlex. Synchronous. Asynchronous. These are some of the many buzzwords Todd Hamrick hears as he sits through a session of the West Virginia University Teaching and Learning CommonsFall Hybrid Teaching Institute

As a teaching associate professor in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, Hamrick is slated to teach a combination of courses that will either be delivered completely online or in a hybrid structure that combines in-person and online delivery. He is participating in the Fall Hybrid Teaching Institute to gear up for the upcoming academic year that will unfold during the evolution of COVID-19. 

As many faculty and instructors like Hamrick begin to reimagine and restructure their course delivery in the wake of COVID-19, the TLC stands ready to assist. Through course planning, contingency preparedness and one-one-one assistance, the TLC is sharing its most reliable tools and strategies for a successful Fall semester. 

Flexibility and resourcefulness are key for a successful academic year 

From live streaming and recording options to a host of online tools that replicate in-class teaching and learning, instructors and students alike have access to resources that will allow them to communicate, engage and collaborate effectively, regardless of course delivery mode. 

Students can use their smartphones as scanners to electronically submit problems they worked on by hand. Instructors can use Mediasite to capture lectures in the classrooms or through a desktop recording that they can use from home. Instructors also can use iClicker Assignments to have students respond to “check-your-understanding” questions to help gauge student learning.

With TLC’s assistance, instructors can benefit from these tools, resources and new teaching strategies should they have to teach students in quarantine or pivot to remote delivery. 

“While there are still uncertainties leading into the upcoming academic year, we are guiding instructors to be flexible, responsive and innovative,” said Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning Tracey Beckley. “By emphasizing flexibility and choice-based learning, instructors can try out new teaching techniques while maintaining high-quality instruction to all students – wherever they are. The end goal is to ensure students are able to meet the learning outcomes of their courses, regardless of the mode of delivery.”

Triaging COVID-19 into the new normal of teaching and learning

While the Fall 2020 semester is just around the corner, the experience of last spring was a test like none other. With the closure of campus in March and a sudden need to shift to remote teaching and learning system-wide, faculty, staff and students went into “triage mode” to make the best of an unprecedented situation. 

Even as all course delivery was transitioned online within 10 days, instructors remained focused on student success and engagement. Nearly 2,400 faculty, instructors and graduate teaching assistants needed instructional guidance for more than 6,000 course sections. The TLC responded quickly, hosting live webinars, creating an online teaching toolkit and holding consultations with individuals and small groups.

Yet while the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to challenge the status quo of teaching and learning, WVU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said that WVU has been evolving instructional delivery for some time. 

“WVU has been anything but idle when it comes to evolving the academic experience for our students,” Reed said. “In fact, many of our units have been at the forefront of teaching and learning innovations. However, the urgent effects of the novel coronavirus have simply catapulted those changes forward, fast-tracking what might have been a longer-term roll out into immediate adoption across the board.” 

While the short-term triage mode has ended, there is still significant work to be done to move WVU forward into this “new normal” of course delivery and choice-based learning.

Investing in the long-term 

Throughout the summer months of remote working, hundreds of faculty and instructors from all WVU campuses are joining Hamrick to prepare for what’s next in the world of higher education. 

With input from its faculty associates, advisory council and institutional partners, TLC is focusing less on quick fixes and more on investing in long-term solutions for the future.

“We really want to empower all who teach at WVU,” Beckley said. “Even in the most normal of times, we provide professional development to help faculty offer students the best educational experience - regardless of modality. Now more than ever, we are leveraging everything from strategic partnerships across campus to academic technologies like VoiceThread to engage instructors and learners in the future of learning.”

Hybrid delivery modes, technology advancements, new teaching strategies, innovative development tools and success stories pinpoint the TLC’s professional development focus. 

Investments to classrooms to set up the latest instructional technologies is also a focal point. Cameras, mixers, microphones, hard drives and software applications are being purchased to provide streaming and recording capabilities in more than 100 classrooms. And the TLC is taking Woodburn Hall for a test drive to expand classroom space, purchasing equipment that enables the transmission of video and audio to and from multiple ground floor classrooms. This creates a greater space for 100+ students by connecting rooms that were previously too small to support most class needs. If this pilot project works, the TLC will explore expanding this to other spaces. 

Engineering new pathways to enhance higher education

“In the classroom, I make engineers,” Hamrick said with passion. “We live on the edge of what everybody else is doing, always pushing the envelope and making things work that didn’t work before. We ask how we can make something bigger, better, stronger, faster or more efficient. We do things that people tell you can never be done.”

With the support and guidance of the TLC, WVU is boldly pursuing a similar path. 

Intending to shake off the one-size-fits-all approach to education, continual adjustments to classroom technology and high-quality instructional design are just the first steps in WVU’s response to the future of higher education. In the months ahead, WVU will continue to lead the charge in embracing the right tools, technologies and investments that enhance the academic experience and ensure that all Mountaineers can thrive in today – and tomorrow’s – world of higher education.



CONTACT: Katie Farmer
Office of the Provost

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