Haslam in the time of COVID-19
In March 2020, the COVID-19 crisis began impacting every aspect of society in the United States, forcing schools, restaurants, and non-essential businesses across the country to close their doors. Faced with a campus-wide shutdown at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the Haslam College of Business rose to the challenge. The college’s technology experts worked to ensure the smoothest possible transition for students and faculty members as all classes moved online after spring break.
Mark Collins, director of the Office of Technology-Enhanced Education, surveyed each department to find out which faculty members needed technical assistance and stayed in contact to ensure they received it. Collins and his colleagues have continued to work overtime, creating training videos and other materials to ease the burden on faculty and students. The college used Respondus, a secure online test administration tool, for exams this semester. “We’re committed to providing the best experience for students while protecting the integrity of the assessment process,” says Collins. “Throughout this challenging period, we’ve been impressed with the can-do attitude of both students and faculty. It’s Haslam at its finest.”
Educators who already had online teaching experience came alongside those who were new to the medium. Training sessions were held to show people how to use the platform and troubleshoot problems. Brian Stevens, senior lecturer in business analytics, says shifting a classroom from physical to virtual is challenging, especially on such short notice. “It’s harder to read students’ faces and non-verbal communication when you’re teaching online,” Stevens says. “You have to find new ways to engage, and it’s tough.”
Student Amber Heatherly admits that the shift has been challenging. “I love being in class and able to go up to the teacher and ask questions,” she says. “Switching to online has been hard for me because I don’t get that interaction.” Yet Heatherly appreciates the efforts of college and university faculty, staff, and administrators to make the best of a difficult situation. “We know this wasn’t anyone’s choice, and they have done a great job keeping in touch with us and staying involved.”
Even while adhering to social distancing guidelines, student Andrew Wind is finding ways to bridge the gaps. “I’ve been able to create online study groups and host virtual quarantine parties, and it’s been great to connect with my classmates that way,” Wind says. He has also seen classes become more streamlined as time goes on. “Faculty members are getting better at using the technology,” he says. “A few of my classes are more difficult to translate to the online format, but for the most part, I’ve realized that many courses can work just as well online.”