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ITS Teaching & Learning has been at the forefront of the University’s COVID-19 communications from the very beginning.

In March, Teaching & Learning collaborated with the Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE), the Office of Arts and Sciences Information Services (OASIS), Carolina Office for Online Learning (COOL), University Libraries and the Office of Instructional Innovation to create the Keep Teaching website. The Keep Teaching website offers resources for faculty to consult throughout the transition to remote instruction.

Thao Nghi Tu
Thao Nghi Tu

While working on this collaborative effort to create the Keep Teaching website for faculty, Teaching & Learning also shared several resources for students on the Teaching & Learning blog, which was among one of the first resources published to provide guidance on remote learning in response to COVID-19.

In mid-March, Teaching & Learning’s Thao Nghi Tu wrote a blog entry on using Sakai and Zoom, and shared resources on accessibility and counseling services, writing and learning tips, and other student-relevant information from groups across campus.

Front lines of faculty support

In addition to creating helpful online resources, Teaching & Learning has been one of the main providers of faculty training and support.

The Keep Teaching collaboration group began faculty trainings on March 12. The group led sessions on preparing to teach remotely to help faculty understand the evolving situation while focusing on Teaching & Learning’s supported tools, Zoom and Sakai, to continue their instruction.

Tu led all “getting started in Sakai” classes with Teaching & Learning’s Morgon Haskell, who also led some sessions on “getting started in Zoom.” Several other staff members from Teaching & Learning also provided support by addressing questions faculty posted in the Zoom training chats and help requests.

The following week, Teaching & Learning offered intermediate Sakai classes that addressed faculty members’ major concerns, like administering tests and quizzes.

Morgon Haskell
Morgon Haskell

“We certainly sensed a lot of anxiety among faculty as they needed to make immediate adjustments to their courses, but it has been refreshing to see so many faculty try new things and be as flexible as they can be with their students,” said Tu.

The Zoom classes had 590 total attendees and “getting started in Sakai” had 327 attendees. In total, some 1,516 faculty members participated in the training sessions from March 12 to 18.

Strengthening security

In early April, companies and universities across the country reported cases of Zoombombing, when hackers break into Zoom calls and disrupt them with inappropriate or harmful messages.

Suzanne Cadwell, Director of Teaching & Learning and the UNC Zoom service owner, has been in close contact with Zoom to discuss UNC-Chapel Hill’s security concerns and has set up additional security settings on the UNC Zoom account. For example, since March 25, faculty using Zoom can set up class meetings to exclude non-UNC participants.

Proactively planning

The next round of training Teaching & Learning is focusing on is for Summer School, and equipping instructors with knowledge on collaborative tools like VoiceThread to better engage their students. Tu and Haskell held three training sessions on April 15 and 16.

“The ITS Summer School training helped guide expectations for my online Maymester course. In addition to providing the requisite resources to deliver high-quality online instruction, the training helped me reconsider the alignment between my course objectives and assessment techniques,” said psychology Professor Patrick Harrison.

Teaching & Learning will hold the next training sessions in mid-May. As the need arises, the group will develop training for other tools.

Suzanne Cadwell
Suzanne Cadwell

“We’re looking ahead to provide more workshops over the summer, focusing on more advanced training on Sakai lessons, assessing student learning, Poll Everywhere and other ways to engage students,” Tu said.

In addition to group training, the team continues to provide one-on-one consultations. Whenever leading groups or talking to individuals in consultations, Teaching & Learning makes sure to emphasize the importance of being flexible and providing student accommodations.

Emphasizing digital accessibility

Throughout the pandemic, employees such as Tu have worked closely with the Digital Accessibility Office (DAO). As a DAO liaison for Teaching & Learning, Tu said that making sure that all forms of communication are as accessible as possible to students and faculty is a top priority. The DAO and Accessibility Resources & Service have also been involved in the Keep Teaching training sessions and resources made available to faculty.

While many lives have been disrupted by the pandemic, one thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication of UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and staff to keep the University running.

“One thing that continues to stand out to me is how well everyone is working together to help support our faculty and students during this unprecedented time,” Tu said. “It’s been a whirlwind second half of the semester but really encouraging to collaborate with so many different teams on campus. The focus for everyone has been making the transition as easy as possible and relieving stress from instructors and students. We have heard from many faculty members who are grateful for the support they’ve been given and excited to take advantage of the many tools available to them.”

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