On a particularly warm February day just a few weeks ago, University of Findlay’s campus was noticeably abuzz with the potential the unseasonable warmth had brought along with it. Students and faculty were outside, walking with friends, studying, and generally celebrating the inevitable end of the winter chill.
At that time it was nearly impossible to predict what has happened since. With the arrival to the United States of the Coronavirus COVID-19, campus life at UF and around the country came to a halt, and spirits, as a result, were lowered. It was difficult to imagine how education would continue. Oiler Spirit, however, is tough and nearly impossible to crush, and, in a whirlwind of coming together and making things happen for the greater good of all involved, what has resulted has been nothing short of overwhelmingly positive.
Classes have been made to be remote, and virtual learning at UF has become the new method of delivering the quality education that it is well-known for. But, how?
Damon Osborne, Interim Dean of the College of Business and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, said that there are a number of variables involved. Some faculty, according to Osborne, are seasoned at teaching online, and will likely just convert their course to a standard asynchronous online learning experience. Others stay closer to their comfort zone and find technology that supports their teaching accordingly.
“Consistency is important as is flexibility,” said Dr. Christine Denecker, Professor of English and Director of the Center for Teaching and Program Excellence. “Some students have never taken an online course, let alone six at the same time. Luckily, UF has caring part-time and full-time faculty who are taking the different variables into account while planning and delivering their online instruction.”
With remote learning, one may think that the experiential angle, in which UF takes such great pride, can no longer happen at all. Yet, in spite, and even because of the current situation, while a student understandably cannot do as much hands-on learning as they can while it’s directly in front of them, there are still opportunities for students to “learn by doing.” Students in Associate Professor of Education Dr. Nicole Williams’ classes are learning certain skills to use both for their classes and for their future careers. “As a teacher educator, it is not only important for me to teach my students online but also model best practices in how to teach online,” Williams said. “Many of my students, especially my graduate students, are currently in P-12 classrooms that must now transition online. The knowledge and skills I teach them via Canvas, Zoom, Google, etc. are immediately applicable and necessary for them to teach their P-12 students.”
Some might think that, while UF and its faculty have the ability to teach classes online effectively, they may not have the ability to motivate and positively affect the thoughts and deeds of others, students and faculty alike. In other words, they’re technically proficient, but what about their hearts? How is everyone supposed to become and remain positive during such a jarring time?
The short answer: Don’t underestimate the caring side of UF.
Time and time again, when asked by someone unfamiliar, this idea of UF being like a family gets mentioned, and, luckily for its students and staff, this perception and feeling gets magnified in times of crisis and uncertainty. “Even if I feel a measure of stress and anxiety regarding how we will continue to move forward,” Osborne said,” knowing that I have colleagues who are rowing in the same direction gives me the encouragement and strength necessary to continue. In turn, I share positive energy everywhere I travel, even the virtual locations, so that those around me feel encouraged as well.”
“UF faculty and staff do care about their students as if they were family,” Denecker added. “We want the best for them, and we’ll collaborate, be creative, problem-solve, and find the answers and resources needed to help students complete the semester, earn their degrees, and/or move onto the next stages in their educational careers. We will also continue to challenge them as learners, but–as we always do–we’ll balance that challenge with the needed support.”
Rest assured, Oiler Nation. One thing that does not have to be of concern during this challenging period of time is our students continuing to receive the superior college education they’ve always gotten from University of Findlay, whether virtual or otherwise.
“Good teaching is good teaching, honestly,” Osborne said. “As long as faculty are creating opportunities for students to interact with each other, the course content, and the instructor, the chances are greatest that students meet the intended outcomes. My motto is that good teaching practices in face-to-face spaces are good teaching practices in online spaces.”