Harnessing the Chaos: Transforming Your COVID Collection of Online Courses into High Quality Learning Experiences

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learn how George Mason University harnessed the power of partnership with Wiley Education Services to prepare faculty and move 100+ courses from their emergency remote learning forms into dynamic learning experiences. Takeaways include developing flexible faculty development models, project management approaches, and aligning institutional vision with complex project plans.

Extended Abstract

Covid-19 was a disruptor-- a disruptor of health, livelihood, and education. In Higher Education, Covid-19 disrupted the strategic plans institutions were implementing to deliver planful, quality-driven, learner-centered courses and programs. In March 2020, schools immediately pivoted to remote learning via any means possible - the imperative due to schools closing their physical campuses. The go-to learning approach for faculty was live synchronous sessions via Zoom. Feedback collected by schools during the summer of 2020 to assess the impact of transitioning to virtual /remote instruction found students and faculty alike were dissatisfied with this experience.

The following months pressure-tested schools’ Centers of Excellence, which focus on supporting faculty development in teaching and course development. As institutions began to look to the next academic year (Fall 2020), they realized the path they took in Spring 2020 would not be satisfactory to support robust engagement. George Mason University was one of those institutions faced with the need to transition hundreds of campus courses into high-quality online learning environments by the fall semester. Wiley Education Services, a learning solutions provider and long-term partner of George Mason, worked with George Mason’s Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning to support faculty in the development of these courses including course 1:1 design, development, and production between learning designer and faculty, course design consulting, media consultation, and faculty development webinars. In 8 weeks, over 150 courses were completed in the partnership, helping Mason support its instructional continuity though the pandemic.

George Mason University is committed to academic excellence and accessibility. Their leadership priorities are to ensure great course experiences are being delivered to their students and faculty are supported through the resources and training needed to provide quality, engaging learning experiences for their students. Those responsible for executing on this mission leaned into the disruption, embracing the opportunity to deliver quality curriculum with renowned faculty in an online/blended/hybrid format.

This was accomplished through a combination of detailed technical requirements, project management and a faculty support infrastructure that met faculty where they were in terms of developing and teaching in an asynchronous online learning framework. The technical requirements to deliver on the hundreds of online courses students would need in the Fall term included: identifying courses to offer and deliver for the fall term, identifying faculty to design and deliver the fall term courses, alignment to the online pedagogy, creating a George Mason branded primary course template, alignment to accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion in language and functionality, use of tools, development of media elements (video and interactives), and developing the process that instructional designers would use to engage and collaborate with faculty to design the courses. The faculty support infrastructure encompassed the “keep teaching” philosophy by providing resources, templates, and development courses. These resources helped faculty remain focused during the chaos of the Spring 2020 term. Additional workshops were conducted during the summer to assist faculty with the pivot towards designing and facilitating courses in more flexible learning modalities (online/blended/hybrid) for the following Fall.

While this presentation discusses how George Mason University and Wiley partnered to deliver quality, asynchronous, learner-centered online courses, and support faculty during a critical time of transition, it will include key takeaways for all institutions who are still developing the frameworks needed to expand online teaching and learning at their institutions.

Key takeaways from attending this session:

Strong institutional vision, strategy, and plan. Alignment to your institutional strategy becomes the anchor for working through overly complex and fast-paced projects. There will always be different perspectives, opinions, and approaches. The impetus is to never lose sight of an institution’s goals: students and quality curriculum. Institutions who have ‘done the work’ to create alignment to their mission and vision create stronger momentum.

Project management is your friend. We will share our project management approach. Develop flexible faculty development support models as this enables institutions to support/guide/train/develop their faculty, whether hundreds or thousands. We will share examples that include webinars, drop-in virtual office hours, and primary course design templates.