Campus Community / Science / Technology and Health

Whether In-Person, Virtually or a Hybrid, Care and Excellence Hallmarks of Faculty-Led Teaching

Written by Tina Potterf

April 29, 2020

Faculty are using creativity and flexibility in remote instruction. (Photo features students walking on campus near the Quad fountain.)

Image credit: Yosef Chaim Kalinko

Creativity and flexibility drive remote instruction among schools and colleges.

You could say that Albers Professor Greg Magnan, PhD, has been ahead of the curve—or the times—when it comes to online or remote instruction.  

For several years Magnan, who teaches operations management courses in the marketing department at the business school, has been involved with Seattle U’s Center for Digital Learning & Innovation (CDLI) in converting courses to hybrid and fully online courses.

And in the past decade, he has offered hybrid courses—a mix of in-person and remote instruction—and says this transition to fully online learning was the next logical step, a step accelerated and widened in scope across campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our campus resources and experts in CDLI have supported faculty on this journey for several years and, in this crisis, have been instrumental in shifting our courses to fully online,” he says.

In addition to his work with classroom instruction, Magnan worked with colleagues, including CDLI staff members, to assist faculty across the university in the transition to remote instruction. At Albers, he teamed up with colleague Nathan Colaner, PhD, MBA, senior instructor of management and program director of the Bridge MBA program, to create a space to communicate with faculty who may have questions about remote instruction.

The platform, called the “Viral Spiral,” has since evolved into a Canvas Group site for all Albers faculty, full-time and adjunct, to get questions answered, share best practice and ideas, and post useful resources.

“All across the university, I’ve been impressed with the passion and care demonstrated by my colleagues, as well as the creativity and effort put forth,” says Magnan. “I think many were under the impression that online teaching was something that would occur in the future. Well, the future is now and our faculty have risen to the challenge with clever learning ideas and being flexible.”

An example of this flexibility is faculty working with students across multiple countries and time zones, from the U.S. to China, Japan and countries in Europe, explains Magnan, and allowing students to submit assignments in their own time zone. “It is a small thing but shows how our faculty are willing to adapt to the needs of our students.”

Here is a look at some of the other creative and innovative ways faculty and programs in our colleges and schools are bringing the top-quality Jesuit education Seattle U is known for, putting the care and success of students first, in these challenging and unprecedented times:

College of Science and Engineering
Mechanical Engineering: Professor and Chair Teodora Rutar Shuman, PhD, says Mechanical Engineering faculty have done an “outstanding job” of transitioning to online learning.
“Before the outbreak, we were already on the forefront of engineering education with flipped classrooms, experimental design, incorporating technology and other innovative teaching practices.”
Some of the noteworthy faculty innovations in the three new vertically integrated project courses include:

–Successful Zoom class meetings with 110 students in attendance
–Design projects aimed at solving COVID-19 problems
–Mandatory weekly mentoring by industry professionals via Zoom for freshmen, sophomores and juniors

Other innovations are around remote labs. For example, lab platforms are sent to a student’s residence where the student is expected to complete weekly assignments; other students remotely program the “robot,” which is then sent to faculty who tests the program on the robot via an interactive Zoom class.

CSE Advising Center:
•First-year computer science students will attend an interactive virtual group advising session led by the chair of the department and the Advising Center team. The session includes a live training and demo by Seattle U’s Information Technology Services’ program manager on how to use the New Student Planning tool to create an individualized academic course plan, as well as group and 1:1 conferences about class selection for fall quarter registration.

•In one-on-one meetings with students, apprising them of the many Seattle U resources available to them virtually.

•Support of an international student who is still on campus as most students are at home. The Advising Center staff served as a Seattle contact while the student’s family is all in Asia and many times zones ahead.

“The faculty are 100 percent committed to your learning and serving students well this quarter,” said Jhon Paul Smith, PhD, associate professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering. “All the systems are in place so you can take advantage and continue to grow academically and personally.” 

College of Arts & Sciences
SU Choirs: As part of virtual learning this quarter, Leann Conley-Holcom, DMA, director of Choral and Vocal Activities, is offering a wide range of individual and collaborative musical content for students, geared to provide learning experiences that allow them to create, analyze, perform, explore, process and learn individually and in groups. Each week, students select a project from a list of choices ranging from music composition to score study to collaborative performance and receive feedback from their professor and peers. In addition, Dr. Conley-Holcom is offering several weekly content lessons, including “Technique Tuesday” videos focusing on some aspect of vocal technique, “Theory Thursday” (provided by Assistant Director of Choral Music Dr. Lee Peterson) and “Fieldwork Friday” interviews with people active in the music field. Recently the program hosted a talk about creativity and risk-taking with Stephen and Shannon O’Bent—the singer-songwriter duo PepperJill & Jack—and this week wrapped up an inspiring chat about music education, composition and conducting with Judy Herrington, composer/arranger and founding artistic director of the Tacoma Youth Chorus. Weekly interviews with music professionals will continue through the quarter. 

“There is no way for us to replicate the beauty and benefits of singing together in real-time at this point, but we can do things to continue to grow and thrive as musicians,” says Conley-Holcom. “In lieu of singing together in person and preparing performances, the choral ensemble courses have been modified this quarter to help students think creatively, engage critically and build skills that will enable them to become stronger and more capable musicians when we return to in-person instruction.”

Introduction to International Studies: Associate Professor Serena Cosgrove shared this about her INST 2000 course—“I’ve got my students split into book groups and once they’ve read their books, they’ll be having ZOOM conversations with their respective authors. And, secondly, my student book teams have each been joined by a student from the UCA in Managua, Nicaragua. This is part of a pilot that SU Global Engagement is promoting called COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning.)

Kinesiology: In the Kinesiology Department, chair and associate professor Sarah Shultz, PhD, says that the move to remote instruction opened up an opportunity to reexamine the existing curriculum. Remote courses consist of eight- to 10-minute lecture modules that students watch before class, along with activities, self-quizzes and videos for application and discussion. There’s also small group work, discussing relevant research and time for problem solving.

“Our students get a lot of hands-on experience in our major and our internship has been the most heavily impacted by physical distancing,” she says. “Now, instead of going to an external site for professional training, our students are given hands-on projects that surround a professional theme (exercise prescription, health and wellness, physical therapy). Additionally, we have matched our seniors with a faculty or staff member, primarily from the College of Arts and Sciences, for the spring quarter. Our students work remotely with them to develop at-home exercises that can be used to meet the fitness/health goals. We really like this initiative because our students get much needed hands-on experience and our department gets to help the greater university community stay a little bit healthier during this unusual times.”

It’s a format Shultz believes will continue to work across online, hybrid and flipped classroom in-person experiences.

“While I think that SU will always value the in-person classroom experience, I think the success we have seen with remote learning has demonstrated the other ways students can have valuable experiences,” says Shultz. “We can’t call it a true online course design, but a lot of the elements that we are using this quarter will only benefit our curriculum as we move forward.”

When asked about how her work and that of other faculty reflects how creative and nimble they have become in facing an unimagined challenge to traditional classroom teaching and learning,  Shultz says “The ability to address these challenges just highlights the dedication and devotion faculty and staff have to the learning experience at Seattle University. The students come first here and that could not be more evident by the entire university’s pivot to remote learning.”

Magnan also gave a “shout to our students,” who are “also being flexible, savvy with Zoom and being their usual willing participants in good, intellectual conversation, whether in a Zoom session or via an online discussion,” he says. “Seattle U students are the best!”