COVID-19 response: Experienced journalism, retailing faculty help others make transition to online teaching

Faculty across the university who have more experience with online teaching have worked to help their less tech-savvy colleagues during this time of remote-only classes.

Several have used it as a time to learn new digital skills from the perspective of a novice so they can teach those skills to colleagues and students with the hope that these ad hoc online experiences will help others embrace the world of digital instruction in the future.

Here is a glimpse into what three faculty members have been working to do in the first month of remote teaching.

Jason Porter, journalism and mass communications

To help his fellow advertising and journalism faculty members in the College of Information and Communications, Jason Porter developed a guide to “Streaming in a Hurry” that was built on the concept of see one, do one, teach one.

As he thought about different tools to do livestreaming, Porter would watch a video and use the instructions he found there to create a second video that both showed and explained how to livestream within UofSC’s digital framework. That video was then shared with fellow faculty members.

His first piece of advice to colleagues was simple: You are not creating an online course in a week, he cautioned; you are simply making your regular classroom course accessible to digital users.

The tasks coincided nicely with Porter’s coursework, which is to teach students many of the skills they need to master the digital realm — web design, digital animation and creating an online portfolio.

“Since my background is in doing agency work in advertising, my first reaction that we were going to be working remotely was ‘OK, that’s not that big of a deal,’ ” Porter says. “My second thought was, ‘Holy cow! There’s a whole lot of other professors who don’t know how to log in to Blackboard.’ ”

Poter’s primary goal with his tutorial videos was to give his fellow faculty members options for putting their course materials online.

“Zoom is awesome, but you have to have a new link for each meeting,” he says. “One of the nice things about Blackboard is you can leave the link open forever — like an open office door.

You’re saying ‘Here’s a room we can meet in.’

“We’re not reinventing the wheel.”

Daniela Jankovska and Karen Edwards, retailing

Like Porter, retailing professor Daniela Jankovska in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management is not just teaching students theory, but teaching them how to use different software as part of their coursework.

"I have one course that not only requires students to cover text, but also requires that they have access to computer software that they need to learn. For example, the creation of floor plans and technical analysis uses software, such as the Adobe Creative Cloud," she says, adding that she worked with Porter early in the digital conversion. “We were talking about how we are handling this component for our students, trying to come up with creative and interesting ways to make sure we don’t lose any quality in teaching or delivery.”

For Jankovska, the key was getting students free access to the programs they need — namely the Adobe Creative Cloud — which are available for free in some computer labs.

Jankovska also is working with fellow retailing professor Karen Edwards, who teaches her students the art and science of digital retailing, on using the disruption in the market as a teachable moment.

“Many fashion and retail companies have been trying to help with the situation we’re in right now,” Jankovska says. “So I’ll assign a topic and say: ‘Companies like LVMH Group (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy Group), and many other luxury brands have converted their factories to make hand sanitizer and face masks.’ I ask them, ‘What do you think about that?’ ”

Students then discuss the issue among their peers in online discussion groups and complete blog entries for the course, which they can link to from their resumes as sample work.

“It shows they have been developing their communication and written skills throughout the course,” Jankovska says.

Edwards, who has also worked through the university’s Center for Teaching Excellence to help faculty in the Arnold School of Public Health go online, says the current situation for both retailing and public health should be discussed in the classroom.

“I think we would be remiss not to explore with our students the current world events in the context of how it relates to specific courses and larger fields of study,” Edwards says. “For example, in RETL 310, I gathered a series of online articles for students to read, and they will be discussing the impact of COVID-19 on both brick-and-mortar and online retailing. The topic will be interwoven into learning activities as the semester proceeds.”

Edwards tells her fellow professors to remember the basics even while working remotely.

“Don't forget that especially in the online context, students need regular interaction with their instructor as well as with each other,” Edwards says. “So, I say, do what you can to build a sense of community and see how fun online teaching can be.”

Finding that fun in online teaching is one positive Jankovska hopes comes out of the current crisis.

“As much as this situation is terrible, all of this does show that adoption of digital media and software is absolutely essential,” she says. “This has been a very a very trying time, and remote learning has suddenly gone mainstream to an extent unimaginable just a few weeks ago." 

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