As UNLV professors prepare to begin teaching classes remotely starting March 23, we bet you have questions on how it's all going to work. The good news is UNLV is fully prepared with a robust remote system that keeps students and faculty up to date, up to speed, and in line to put degrees in hand on time.
The office of information technology and office of online education were preparing for this contingency long before there was any inkling of the havoc that coronavirus would wreak around the world. Universities from around the country have been sharing information about their online programs as this situation develops, and UNLV has learned important lessons from that. Schools in New York and New Orleans, for example, discovered after hurricanes Sandy and Katrina the efficacy of real-time captioning in Google and Microsoft products for streamed lectures.
"As the situation evolves, the resources we provide to students, faculty, and staff will evolve as well," said Lori Temple, vice provost for information technology.
UNLV has long been taking advantage of remote teaching tools, so it’s a matter of scaling up existing infrastructure. In fact, 95 percent of UNLV students have taken at least one course online and, in any given semester, between 20 percent and 35 percent of instructors deliver their course content online.
Ready? Awesome! Here are some tips to get you started:
- Though individual faculty members will be able to choose the means by which they present coursework, the primary portal for most classes will be WebCampus. Login with your ACE credentials, and you're ready to rock.
- Professors will likely use one of three platforms: Google Meet, WebEx, or Panopto to conduct lectures. Whether classes happen at their regularly scheduled time, your class schedule will be adjusted, or lectures will be presented on-demand is up to your professors.
- "The best practice is to set aside time when you're going to go to class. As a student you need to set aside time and say, 'I'm studying during these hours and I'm going to minimize distractions,'" Beth Barrie, director of the office of online education, said.
- Webinars will be available to navigate the WebCampus system, and the Canvas support site remains a valuable resource.
- After logging in, the left-hand navigation in WebCampus will show a dashboard and a tab for your coursework where you can find all your lectures and assignments, the latter of which can be uploaded upon completion directly to the system.
- For students struggling to adapt, Barrie suggests that planning ahead is a crucial step. "Set some goals," she said. "What are the objectives of this? Look at your syllabus really closely. What am I supposed to learn? Here's what I need to study related to what I just found out that the instructor wants me to be learning. And, again, set aside time. Sometimes it helps to set a timer even. I'm going to do this for 30 minutes, then I'm going to take a five-minute break."
- On the other hand, remote teaching offers some great opportunities not only to get into good study habits, but to focus closely — and repeatedly — on the material. "If an instructor has created a recording of something, you can go back and watch it again. So when I go to class and I'm trying to like scramble to take notes my mind wanders and I was like, well, what did he just say? I can't rewind the professor. But if the lecture is online, I can rewind it and watch it again."
- Concerned about access to the technology or Internet service you need? Know that plans are also being developed for those various contingencies. At this time, for example, general campus operations will continue even if remote teaching becomes a temporary reality. (And those labs will be on a regular cleaning schedule.)
- The office of information technology is providing in-person, over-the-phone, and online support for instructors needing to move their coursework online. (There’s lots of advice in there for any employee who needs to work remotely.)
- "With the help of campus IT personnel, instructional designers, and faculty who regularly teach online, we developed a comprehensive list of resources," Temple said. "In fact, we are hosting drop-in open labs at the UNLV Faculty Center next week, as well as increasing the number of virtual open labs we offer. These are opportunities for instructors to get personalized assistance."
- Barrie suggests frequent, smaller assignments that can help professors better get to know their students and their tendencies.
- Remember that the basics of teaching remain the same. In a recent survey conducted by the office of online education, students noted that whether or not online or hybrid courses use the most up-to-date technology is only somewhat important to them. But they overwhelmingly valued well-structured content, consistent weekly communication with and from their instructors, and the ability to work ahead, something the remote teaching can excel at providing.
So whether this is your first experience taking or teaching a course remotely, Barrie’s advice is don’t fret! "Adopt a growth mindset," she said. "This may be new for some, but we're all in this together. Our technologists are available to help every step of the way."