The fall semester at the University of Delaware begins September 1, 2020, and many faculty and staff have spent the summer exploring ways to provide a better virtual learning experience for Blue Hens.
To help support this learning, UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics hosted the Lerner Online Teaching Virtual Showcase: Just in Time Learning earlier this month. Led by the college’s top online teachers, this showcase gave the more than 50 faculty and staff who attended the opportunity to learn additional tips and tricks that could be immediately and easily applied to their virtual courses for the fall.
Traditionally, Lerner hosts an in-person teaching and research showcase each semester, allowing faculty and staff to share new methods in teaching. The spring 2020 showcase was canceled when UD transitioned to online classes, but college leadership explained that it was vital to hold an adapted showcase before the fall semester began in order to ensure that faculty and staff had space for idea sharing and community building.
“We’re putting this on because we want faculty to learn from each other,” said Lerner College Deputy Dean and Aramark Chaired Professor Sheryl Kline. “We had DLEO (Delivering Learning Experiences Online) sessions where we learned from experts in online learning and instructional design and it was great. The Showcase was created so that we can continue learning about online teaching from each other, to see what worked in the business school setting.
“The other thing we hope to do is to continue to build a sense of community between the faculty and staff at Lerner,” Kline continued. “I know many faculty and staff are feeling isolated from each other and haven’t seen their colleagues and their friends in person since the middle of March. We’re hoping to use this showcase as a way to build a sense of community so that during the semester they feel like they can reach out to their colleagues because they’ve seen them and talked with them and feel more comfortable.”
Seven faculty members were recommended by instructional designers, Lerner department chairs and positive student evaluations from the spring courses to lead presentations during the showcase. Overall, the online Lerner experience in Spring was positively received by students. Lerner spring online courses received a 4.4 out of 5 rating from students. Many of the instructors who presented at the showcase have extensive experience teaching in the Lerner’s top-ranked Online MBA program and have additional experience working in the virtual learning space.
Lerner College Dean Bruce Weber started off the morning welcoming attendees to the showcase, saying, “I think overall at the University of Delaware we’re doing a good job of letting the data speak and making the arrangements in a way that we do keep ourselves and our students safe, but we also keep academic continuity.
“[Students] put a lot of faith in us when they join a program at the Lerner College,” Weber continued. “I think we’re showing that we’re up to the task and we’re going to bring them a good fall semester and, hopefully, begin to make up for this deficit of personal interaction.”
Three different sessions were held throughout the day, allowing time for presentations to be followed by breakout sessions with smaller groups. These breakout sessions gave attendees the opportunity to discuss their thoughts, questions and best practices with both the presenters and their peers.
“The organizers made the showcase especially effective by facilitating discussions after the presentations,” said Assistant Professor of Finance Max Dolinksy, who is a new member of the Lerner faculty this fall. “As participants got engaged, we were able to analyze the ideas extensively and find ways to implement them in the fall. The timeliness of the showcase gives me enough time to implement the top takeaways into my fall classes. Particularly, I now feel more prepared for delivering vibrant classes through Zoom.”
The final session led by Assistant Professor of Business Administration Derron Bishop included an interactive activity in which attendees practiced a teaching method together and learned how to implement it into their own classrooms.
“Online and classroom teaching require different skill sets,” Dolinksy noted. “We have to be proactive and adapt to the changing times in order to keep delivering world-class education to our students. Attending the Lerner Online Teaching Virtual Showcase provided me with the opportunity to expand my skills and learn best practices from my colleagues for online teaching.”