How Boise State faculty members have adjusted to a virtual learning and working environment

When classes first went virtual back in March, it was obvious that professors were going to have to modify their curriculum in order to best suit the new conditions. Educators had limited time to adapt and to change their courses to accommodate their new virtual classroom formats.

Boise State’s efforts were made almost immediately in the following months. It was important that faculty members felt supported as well as given instruction to ensure that their classes were running as smoothly as possible.

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) immediately began to help faculty switch to remote learning, help answer faculty member’s questions and ensure that they were still able to teach the rest of their curriculum for the semester. 

“We knew that faculty needed to be helped,” said Teresa Focarile, a theatre professor and faculty member of the CTL. “We had to ask our faculty members the right questions: ‘are you prepared to have classes online?’ ‘What if I have a student that is sick and can’t come to class?’ ‘How can I help to still engage with them?’ It was important to us to provide answers to these questions.”

Workshops and online courses were provided to help faculty reimagine their courses. Learning Technology Solutions (LTS), the CTL and the E-Campus Center gave a three week training and workshop to help staff with this change. They were given stipends for their work, and there was a turnout of over 646 faculty members over the summer. 

Professors have put in work throughout the year to make sure that students are given resources and feel supported despite being mostly virtual. This means reevaluating the work and assignments students are given and sometimes changing them to adapt to student’s needs. 

Dr. Jonathan Shipley, communications professor at Boise State, said that being attuned to student needs is more important than ever right now. 

[Photo of a woman working from home with co-workers on a video call]
Photo by Anna Shvets | Pexels

“Classes being virtual have created a weird space where because I don’t know people, I have to make an effort to be a bit more flexible than normal,” Shipley said. “It has forced me to ensure the assignments are accessible and are able to be completed by everyone.”

Boise State faculty members are continuously trying to come up with new ways to help students stay on top of course work. There have been a lot of unexpected changes this year. These changes ultimately have improved courses and have discovered new solutions to issues that college campuses everywhere are currently facing. 

Student-teacher relationships and interactions look very different this semester compared to previous semesters. For students like junior psychology major Abby Pritchard, the virtual setting can make it harder for students and faculty to build connections and create relationships. 

“Connecting to my professors has looked quite a bit different this semester then most,” Pritchard said. “For me, it’s easier to focus and to build relationships in person. However, I am very grateful for the way my professors have communicated with us, and I have had several occasions where I have been reached out to make sure my classes are running smoothly.”

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