For most students, the first day of classes is just around the corner. But, for one group, class has been going on all summer.
Who are these summer students?
It’s a group of 243 faculty members, who have participated in Babson’s Online Teaching Training Program. Since June, the College’s Academic Technology Innovation Center has hosted more than 75 workshops with the goal of combining instructional technology training and a chance to dig into online pedagogy.
In addition to providing faculty with tools and tips for online teaching, workshop topics included Well Being in the Virtual Classroom, Online Course Design, “De-daunting” Discussion Boards, and more. It’s all part of the College’s multimillion dollar investment in faculty development, hardware, and software that will improve the learning experience.
“We are hoping to see faculty use the various tools we introduced in the course,” said Cheryl Gray, senior curriculum production specialist, who led many of the sessions. She is looking forward to ongoing partnerships with faculty as the ATI center continues to support new approaches for each class, given the fluid fall semester environment.
During the two week-program, faculty participants experienced many of the same class elements that will be part of undergraduate and graduate courses this fall, including readings, videos, discussions, live Webex sessions and reflections, and even group projects. In fact, experiencing the student’s perspective in an online course offerings was one of the program’s main goals.
“Participating as a student was a good reminder that cognitive overload is a challenge in online learning,” said Patrick Gregory, senior lecturer in finance and managing director of the Cutler Center. “I realized that I was much more engaged when watching a video than when reading text on the same subject. It reinforced that we need to be mindful of our students’ learning styles.”
We spoke with three members of the faculty who shared takeaways from their OTTP experience.
Keep the Energy Up
Faculty Director for Babson’s Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching and Professor of Management Nan Langowitz is no stranger to teaching hybrid classes. In fact, she worked with the ATI team to co-design the Online Teaching Training Program and also served as a cohort mentor. This fall, she’ll be teaching Entrepreneurial Leadership as well as Managing People and Organizations, both online.
“Keeping a session moving is critical for keeping the energy up,” she explained. Her strategy? Each session uses a variety of course materials, including case discussions, small group breakouts and debriefs, mini-lectures, and reflection time.
Gregory, who teaches Equities and the Babson College Fund course, takes a different tack for keeping students engaged. “I’m embedding quiz questions into my pre-recorded lectures to promote active learning,” he says.
Perfection Is in the Preparation
“I do a lot of preparation and testing,” says Professor Emeritus Chris Hennessey. Like Langowitz, Hennessey frequently integrates breakout sessions in his classes.
“I make sure each student’s WebEx room works. Can you imagine if in the middle of class, students couldn’t get into their personal rooms for a breakout? It would be a nightmare, so I really think rehearsing is worth it.”
Langowitz stressed the importance of a well-organized Canvas course site and class materials that translate for online students. “Preparing good slides is a must, and I quickly learned that writing with the stylus on my slides was much easier for online students to see than writing on the classroom whiteboard,” she said. “It’s a mistake I only made once!”
A Community of Inspiring Colleagues
One highlight of the OTTP was the chance it provided for faculty to learn directly from one another. “For me, the faculty-led sessions were a highlight,” said Gregory, who served as a mentor for his cohort.
Colleagues from across the College shared their insights and experience in special topic workshops. “Melissa Manwaring led a great session on redesigning face-to-face experiential exercises for virtual classrooms,” said Gregory.
Other special topics included a session from Professor Elizabeth Swanson on how to build a trusting, cohesive community online, and one from Professor Sinan Erzurumlu on simple frameworks faculty can use to respond quickly to shifts in the teaching environment.
“I’m always impressed (and a little humbled) by the caliber of faculty at Babson,” said Gregory.
“It reflects how much emphasis the institution places on teaching, which gives us an advantage in hybrid teaching. We already have a lot of the instincts and course design skills required to be successful in this new environment.”
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