Virtual Learning Resources, Advice from CHSS Faculty

On March 17, the college hosted a WebEx panel, “Moving to Virtual Alternative Teaching: Practical Recommendations and Advice from CHSS Faculty,” to offer on-the-ground suggestions for how to teach effectively online and remind all faculty members that they are not alone in navigating the challenges posed by COVID-19.

The college has created a page on its website that hosts the WebEx panel recording and a growing number of resources available to the CHSS community. Faculty and staff members are invited to view the video and the accompanying PowerPoint presentation to access the embedded links.

Jaime Lester, the college’s Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, also emphasized the importance of meeting students where they are. David Miller, one of the panelists and a communication department faculty member, noted that some of his students do not have easy access to the internet at home. Some of the college’s students will struggle with access to a computer, internet, and a quiet place to do school work. Having children home from school, aging parents, and trying to telecommute will create many complexities for our students. Faculty might consider surveying students about their computer and internet access and, in the words of other faculty colleagues, teach to the lowest common denominator when it comes to technology access. The WebEx panel and the resources available at Mason’s Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning have many tips of how to achieve this goal.

Finally, a resounding theme in the panel discussion was the importance of being kind to yourself. Most faculty members spend months preparing to teach online. The COVID-19 circumstances allowed exactly one week to do so – while faculty members also managed the complexity of their own lives. Just start with the basics, urged Lester, or Step 1 in the Stearns Center continuity plan.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for higher education across the globe,” she said. “Mason and CHSS faculty have already shown courage, generosity, and kindness in the early stages of change. Each day I wake up to more examples of faculty offering messages of support and care to their colleagues and students, staff checking in on student well-being and working to meet their technology needs, and other members of the Mason community ensuring our safety and well-being. The next few weeks will undoubtedly offer additional challenges but I have no doubt that CHSS faculty and staff will rise to the challenge. We are all in this together and you are not alone!”