BOONE, N.C. — At the beginning of the 2020 spring semester, no one at Appalachian State University could have imagined a complete transition to online learning — with only days to prepare. Yet that is what occurred in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and faculty continue to perfect their flexibility.
While Appalachian regularly offers a number of online programs, adapting all courses to that format tested even Mountaineer resiliency. A variety of resources were made available to aid in the transition — including the Keep Teaching and Keep Learning websites and the Center for Academic Excellence’s Faculty Champions, who assisted their peers.
Yet, how do faculty make sure students feel connected and supported in online course delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Four past recipients of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award shared their experiences and strategies. Here are some of their tips.
How to engage students when you can’t be face to face
- Email often with information, resources — and words of encouragement.
- Find ways to connect students to one another. For instance, one professor had students drop a “pin” on a Google Map to indicate their general location.
- Use virtual breakout rooms for students to meet in small groups for discussions and collaborations.
- Offer virtual office hours by Zoom as another “touchpoint” with students.
- Provide a forum for “off-topic” discussions, in which students can talk about how they are coping with their unusual circumstances during the pandemic.
- Use both synchronous options (real-time events, such as videoconferencing or live chatrooms) to provide an opportunity to interact and asynchronous instruction (including recordings, discussion forums and email) to provide flexibility to students.
- Keep things simple, determining what is necessary in the curriculum.
Associate professor, Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
Associate dean, College of Fine and Applied Arts
Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Associate professor of music education, Hayes School of Music
Professor, Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology
Director of the Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Human Resource Management (IOHRM) master’s program
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About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About the Hayes School of Music
The Hayes School of Music prepares young musicians for professional lives as performers, composers, music educators, music therapists, conductors and music industry professionals, ensuring the next generation of musical leadership for the state, region and nation. Noted for quality instruction by national and internationally recognized faculty musicians, the school offers four undergraduate degree programs and three graduate-level programs. Learn more at https://music.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About the Walker College of Business
The Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University delivers transformational educational experiences that prepare and inspire students to be ethical, innovative and engaged business leaders who positively impact our community, both locally and globally. The college places emphasis on international experiences, sustainable business practices, entrepreneurial programs and real-world applications with industry. Enrolling approximately 3,000 undergraduates in 10 majors and 175 graduate students in three master's programs, the Walker College is accredited by AACSB International – the premier global accrediting body for schools of business. Learn more at https://business.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.