The University of New Mexico’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has ramped up its efforts to provide an enhanced platform for remote learning for the fall 2020 semester. After working through many challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, including helping faculty transition their courses to a remote platform, the CTL spent the summer finding new ways to assist faculty and in turn, students.
UNM developed a hybrid model of instruction for this fall while adhering to state guidelines and protocols surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 5 percent of classes on the UNM’s main campus will be face-to-face, another 20 percent are currently planned as face-to-face plus remote, while the remaining 75 percent of courses are planned for fully remote delivery.
The CTL helped faculty prepare for online/hybrid/remote courses to support student learning and success in the fall. CTL provided three levels of support for instructors, all of which focus on creating a welcoming, inclusive learning experience for students: Level 1: Remote Fundamentals Course (5-hrs), Level 2: Course Design Institute (1 week) and Level 3: Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching Online (6-week course). Each of these programs gave faculty a chance to experience being students in an online course.
“These are challenging times but faculty and staff at UNM have worked very hard this summer to ensure that UNM students continue to receive an outstanding education, whether their courses be online, hybrid, or web-enhanced," Aeron Haynie, executive director of the CTL. "CTL is here to support student learning from both sides – by working with faculty on redesigning their courses and by working with students themselves as they learn how to be successful online students. I’m impressed by the dedication of UNM faculty and I’m proud of our team here at CTL.”
This past spring, the Center for Teaching and Learning conducted consultations with groups of instructors to discuss strategies for moving courses online, and quickly. As part of these consultations, instructors were connected with several quick-start, evidenced-based resources. Sessions were recorded and are available online for those who could not attend.
The benefits of evidence-based teaching strategies that support student success, such as active learning, apply equally to online as they do in Face to Face learning environments, but replicating these teaching strategies in online learning environments often requires creativity, innovation and some level of familiarity/comfort with technology.
“Welcoming students into the classroom and creating a sense of community are typically achieved intuitively by instructors in their Face-to-Face (F2F) classrooms,” said Kimberly Fournier, assistant director, Center for Teaching Excellence. “Welcoming facial expressions, body language, informal conversations, all of which help to welcome students, often occur without thought or effort on the instructor’s part.
“Furthermore, a sense of community and connectedness can result simply by having students physically gather and interact in a classroom. Creating learning environment characteristics such as these in online environments often requires deliberate and intentional effort.”
CTL also offered webinars and workshops, open labs and evidence-based practices for teaching online throughout the summer. The webinars were conducted in 60-min interactive workshops delivered via Zoom. The open labs consisted of 1:1 drop-in support with an instructional designer. Questions consisted of a range of technical concerns involving Learn to broader questions about course design.
Finally, CTL’s Writing Across the Curriculum also conducted one-on-one consultations with instructors on ways to use writing as a tool for learning in courses across the disciplines through engaging writing activities, assignments, and assessments. As part of an additional faculty development opportunity, WAC co-designed and co-facilitated the ECURE Summer Institute, a four-week course on integrating undergraduate research experiences into STEM/NSF-recognized courses with a focus on culturally responsive teaching face-to-face and online was also offered.
With more than 100 tutors available to support students with a variety of topics including writing, languages, STEM subjects and more in the Online Learning Center (OLC), the Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS) is UNM’s premier learning assistance program and is available and free to all UNM students enrolled in undergraduate classes. CAPS is an award-winning program offering peer tutoring and academic support services for over 800 classes each semester. Typically, regular CAPS users graduate faster with better grades than students who don’t use CAPS.
To further supplement its tutoring programs, CAPS has created helpful videos on how to be a successful online learner from students who have taken online classes, which are available on the CAPS YouTube site. An online learning time management playlist is available, and a more recent video that provides an overview of online learning is also available. CAPS has also expanded its Online Learning Assistants (OLA) program to include more courses this fall. The OLA is an embedded tutor who provides content support and also helps build a sense of community in the online environment.
CAPS is also working on ways to create virtual open study spaces for students through Discord where they can connect with other students, study together and feel a part of campus life. Additionally, new videos are coming soon on its social media sites from student employees offering words of encouragement and sharing advice that have helped them during this time of remote learning. The CAPS social media platforms can be accessed via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
To access help, students simply need to go online at CAPS to access a tutor and find hours of support for their specific course(s). Resource representatives will also be available to chat and answer any questions or direct students to the many resources available. Students can also work with a tutor through an interactive board and can communicate using video, audio or chat.
Students can also submit any writing assignment through the Online Writing Lab (OWL) 24 hours a day/7 days a week and will receive feedback within 24 hours. Additional resources include CAPS’ Learning Strategies fall workshops on Online Routine Building and Online Classroom Community in addition to its core workshops on effective learning strategies. The workshop schedule will be available on the CAPS website.
CAPS services will be mostly online during the fall semester but will offer students individual and in-person appointments by request. Online drop-in support will be available with online tutors in a variety of subjects on Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m., Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Students will work with a tutor using an interactive and easy to use online board that also has with video, audio and chat capabilities.
For more information, visit the Center for Teaching and Learning.