EMU: Professors provide perspective, encouragement for online learning

By Geoff Larcom / EMU

YPSILANTI – “Let’s Talk About Online Learning.”

And talk they did, as six Eastern Michigan University professors collaborated on a lively and informative webinar on Wednesday, August 26.

The group included, Harriet Lindsay, Chemistry; Michael McVey, Teacher Education; Jessica Elton, Communications, Media and Theatre Arts; Cassandra Barragan, Social Work, and Vernnaliz Carrasquillo, Engineering and Technology. Political Science professor Jeffrey Bernstein served as moderator of the webinar, which was organized by Ashleigh Spatt, Associate Director of Admissions, Marketing and External Outreach.

Together, the faculty members discussed how they will continue to support and engage students virtually, while offering advice on how to succeed in these classes.

Among the insights and perspectives offered in the webinar, which is posted online:

• Courses can be synchronous and asynchronous. A synchronous course is conducted in real time, and an asynchronous course is recorded.

• To best succeed in taking an asynchronous class, find out a time that will work for you, and put it on your schedule. Work at the same time each time. “A regular schedule is everything.”

• You can still make solid connections with professors in an online format. Students can indeed be fully engaged but need to reach out. Most instructors are allowing quite a bit of flexibility in terms of meeting. It helps to send an email if you have a specific question. “Remember, every email is an opportunity to clarify the course.”

Harriet Lindsay, who teaches a synchronous chemistry class mainly to sophomores, holds office hours right after class, so students can just stay put to chat. The professors echoed the sentiment: “We miss interaction just as much as you miss interaction. We really want to talk to you.”

Plenty of emails

• Expect even more emails than normal, and remember to be sure you’re using you’re my.emich email address, or forwarding email from that address.

• Resign yourself to a technology challenge or two during the semester. Above all, don’t just disappear from class if you are having problems. Remember, your professors are empathetic and reasonable people and can make accommodations. “Do let us know. We can’t help if we don’t know about the situation.”

• Regarding the Canvas online system, be sure to write down the Canvas tech support number, and take time to become familiar with the platform.

• Be sure to look at the comments you get on a piece and not just the grade. If you think there might have been a mistake on the grade, send a polite email asking about that.

• Exam formats will vary and often be more flexible in format. Take home exams, for example, in political science. They will be discipline and class specific.

• Creating a sense of community can be challenging online, but, despite that, in these times, it’s even more important for students to be making these connections. Classes will often emphasize teamwork and team projects and lots of interaction outside of class. Formation of study groups is highly encouraged.

• Professors will often use more video discussions, Michael McVey uses Flip Grid, a website that allows teachers to create “grids” to facilitate video discussions.

• Regarding extra resources or help, note that the librarians in Halle are content experts. There are also tutoring and writing resources (such as the Writing Center) on campus. There are chemistry, math and physics tutoring online for all levels, non-majors, majors. The first step should be contacting your professor, who will get you on the right direction.

Time management is crucial

• Pro tip: Be sure to use an app such as the Google Calendar to get on top of things. Figure out when things are due and back in the time to get things done. “It will catch up to you if miss a deadline.”

• Time management is always a very big thing, even more so online. Look at all of your coursework, and plan accordingly. Be sure you know when things need to happen. It’s crucial to take the initiative and get started. This is particularly vital in team projects.

• Ask for help when you need it, as soon as you need it. Don’t wait.

• If you find you’re struggling, reach out early. This is a scary semester for a lot of people. “Take a deep breath, relax and do your best.”

Jeffrey Bernstein summed up the helpful and excited attitude of the group.

“Your professors want you to do well,” he said. “We will maintain high standards for our classes – we can’t just give away A’s, but we are committed to helping you to excel in class.”

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University’s website.