The second semester of the Academic Year 2019-20 presents an unprecedented challenge for the College and UoB. In response to the novel coronavirus, CoB has moved its teaching online. This shift has happened at an astonishing pace, thanks to the joint effort of the academic and administrative staff. Yet in this quick transition, academics and students have to cope with courses that were not initially designed for online teaching with all the challenges that this entails.
In such circumstances, the mission is to ensure that the academic standards and quality are maintained, while taking into account that normal operations are not possible during this disruptive period. UoB published documents as guideline for different aspects of the teaching and learning process. These guidelines were guided by the following principles:
- face-to-face teaching and traditional assessment methods are not viable given the restrictions imposed by the COVID 19
- moving to online teaching is essential to enable students to complete their studies
- remote assessment techniques are needed to substitute on-site assessments
- students’ outcomes need to be reliably assessed, despite the adjustments to the teaching and assessment strategies
- in this transition, both academics and students are facing exceptional challenges which require a flexible approach, rather than a prescriptive approach
With the support of the University e-learning and the IT center several actions were taken to offer appropriate support to CoB students and Faculty:
- Online learning platforms (Blackboard) and educational resources (electronic Textbooks) to guarantee a satisfactory academic experience.
- Online training to use IT systems was provided to faculty and students.
- Programs and course coordinators provided support to instructors to ensure
- learning outcomes are achieved by students where possible.
- all study material, slides, recorded lectures are available to students through online learning platforms
- interaction mechanisms with students (e.g. discussion forums, or e-mails).
- Assessments have to be diversified to assess the students’ learning and understanding taking into account student’s workload and connectivity and technical issues.
Online tools such as Turnitin and proctoring add-ins (Respondus) helped instructor in assessment academic integrity. In addition, there are pedagogic strategies that were used to avoid cheating such as offering open book, open ended assessment and real-world assessment.
While the choice of suitable assessment methods and tools are left to the discretion of the course coordinators and teaching teams, the following are some assessment tools to take into consideration for both formative and summative assessments:
- Multiple Choice Questions.
- Online presentations.
- Oral examinations and online interviews.
- Preparing podcasts or videos.
- Digital narratives using podcasts or videos.
- Case studies.
- Research papers/reports.
- Discussion forums.
- Short quizzes.
- Take home exam
COB knew students might suffer from loneliness and anxiety. In response, we developed measures to support them, including creating an online academic clinic that engaged students in the e-learning process. The clinic was a way for us to maintain a healthy flow of communication with students, collect their continuous feedback, and show that we were concerned about their views and interested in their success.
Less than 10 percent of our students were able to complete their internships, and about 20 percent decided to postpone their internships until the upcoming semester. For the remaining students, we offered opportunities through the academic clinic and the business incubator to help them prepare for the job market, such as mock job interviews, résumé labs, and degree planning workshops. We hope to maintain this increased level of engagement even after the crisis is over.
COVID-19 also has made us view grades in a different light. As students familiarized themselves with the online education experience, the university offered them the option of receiving either a pass/fail or an incomplete grade at the end of the previous semester. Those who opt for incompletes can complete courses for grades after taking final exams, which will be held at the beginning of the next semester. We provided this option for students concerned about upholding their GPAs. Moreover, we noted this semester’s unusual circumstances and grading system on all students’ transcripts. Students viewed this initiative favorably—our student retention rate remained unchanged for the semester. We will resume normal grading procedures once the crisis is over. However, CoB faculty are discussing the possibility of offering students a pass/fail option for non-business courses, such as those they take to meet university requirements.
In addition, we conducted an awareness campaign on social media accounts and websites, in which we explained to students how to use the e-learning platforms. Our student service contact center was available 24/7 to answer inquiries and solve problems.
The college already had proposed greater adoption of flipped classroom formats as part of its 2020–2024 strategic plan; our instructors had been preparing their lecture materials for online formats using technology such as narrated PowerPoint slides, videos, and articles shared over our learning management system. We had introduced smaller class sizes to inspire a more cooperative and engaged learning environment. Our online learning center offered online workshops and tutorial videos to train faculty and students, and we opened a virtual helpdesk to resolve technical issues.
In many ways, it seems fitting that we all have been forced to shift to a non-traditional learning experience that, coincidentally, is also better suited to creating smart learners prepared to work in the digital age. This crisis is a true opportunity to enrich the ways we engage with our students and eliminate the time and location constraints we had previously placed on our programs. The result, we believe, will be an even more valuable educational experience for our students.