CPS Team Expands Online Learning & Faculty Support during COVID-19

Photo with 6 people, mix of men and women, posing by staircase with metal railings
From left to right, CPS Instructional Design team members: Drew Santorello, Kimberly Moler, Michelle Lague, Cody House (Director), Charlotte Morris, Josef Ayala. Missing Mark Trickett.
June 06, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives. As we look back at these historic times, we will remember how it forced us to be flexible and quickly adapt many aspects of our lives. We found new ways of interacting with others, new ways to protect our health and new ways for our students to learn.

When it comes to the unprecedented move universities and schools around the country made to transition the remainder of the spring 2020 semester to virtual learning, GW’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) was well-positioned to shift additional programs online.

  • CPS already had expertise in online learning, with about half of our programs offered online in several different flavors, including fully online, hybrid delivery with both online and in-person sessions, as well as the same program being offered both fully online and fully in-person.
     
  • CPS already had a dedicated instructional design team creating the online learning environment for our programs and supporting our faculty. CPS was better prepared than many others were which has made the transition smoother for our students and faculty than it might have been otherwise.
     
  • CPS was already dedicated to raising the bar on the quality of online education, using “Quality Matters” metrics to further these efforts, faculty training programs and cutting-edge technology designed to maximize student engagement.

When the pandemic hit, our seven design team members, including the instructional designers and a videographer, were already working hard behind the scenes to support the online learning needs of our programs and faculty. Since then, they have been working tirelessly to expand the virtual learning environment for all the necessary courses and continue to support our fully online programs.

“Our whole team stepped up and met the needs of the faculty to help quickly and efficiently migrate a whole lot of courses over to Blackboard. I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work and dedication they put forth to support CPS,” said Cody House, Director of Online Learning and Instructional Technology for the College of Professional Studies.

The team works to assist faculty developing and delivering online courses, as well as the overall effectiveness of faculty in the classroom. They advise on course development, academic integrity and managing student interactions using industry best practices.

While the online learning experience for each course varies due to its’ uniqueness, the team emphasizes the importance of modifying course materials for the online delivery method and maximizing use of cutting-edge technology to support student engagement. They make recommendations on individual courses, rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach to online course development.

The online learning experience may have a synchronous delivery method (scheduled class times), or asynchronous (not scheduled, pre-recorded lectures). Faculty are able to create a flipped classroom, which is heavily discussion focused, a more passive lecture format, or a combination of both of these methods. The online course experience varies due to the type of content and faculty preferences.

The team is continuously adding new and innovative ways to promote student engagement and enhance interactive learning within specific courses, such as:

  • Crime Scene Analysis: Built a complex virtual crime scene and evidence lab with more than 200 360-degree photographs, where students were able to explore the crime scene, analyze evidence and discuss with faculty and classmates.
  • Virtual Book Manufacturing Tour: Students virtually tour a book manufacturing facility, learning the steps of book creation from start to finish. The lesson includes professional networking opportunities with peers and industry leaders.

Before the pandemic, the department was offering a webinar series featuring topics such as:

  • Blackboard: The Basics;
  • Blackboard: Advanced, which covers best practices to maximize your teaching skills and bring engagement into the classroom using tools like Blackboard Collaborate, WebEx, VoiceThread, Discussion Boards as well as how to enhance your Grade Center; and
  • Quality Matters, a course focused on how to make meaningful changes to your course materials to promote a pedagogically engaged classroom according to the Quality Matters guidelines.

Since then, the team has provided increased one-on-one support to faculty, as well as continued to develop a wide-range of resources for teaching and learning.

While the team has increased faculty support in the current environment, they continue to look to the future.

“We’re aiming to create a more faculty-centric community that promotes faculty engagement and the exploration of emerging technologies, curriculum development, and student engagement opportunities,” said director Cody House.