Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of a three-part series examining how WPI is reimagining its distinctive education amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic have felt like uncharted territory for many universities, and delivering college courses off campus and online was no exception.
However, after intensive workshops, trainings, and an abundant sharing of ideas (in typical WPI fashion) on how to combine in-person, online, and hybrid elements to create an engaging college experience via TechFlex, WPI’s faculty and staff are well prepared for A-Term.
Bring in the Champs
Under TechFlex, the university will provide support for faculty members whether they teach from home, in person, or a combination of both. For those who plan on having online aspects in their classrooms in the fall, the Morgan Teaching & Learning Center appointed 18 online “faculty champions”—those who already had experience teaching online and using the technology required—to serve as contacts and community builders across campus this summer. Some are department-based; others are cross-cutting and assist in various departments.
Main roles these online faculty champions play:
- Promoting the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and best practices in online teaching across departments and disciplines.
- Providing enthusiasm and experience in their areas of expertise while also gathering best practices outside those areas to share with the campus community.
- Collaborating with other cross-cutting champions to create and promote a campus-wide virtual space to exchange expertise and resources, answer questions, and build community leading up to the new academic year (and beyond).
John Sullivan, professor of mechanical engineering, and an online faculty champion, is no stranger to helping his peers prepare to teach their classes with an online component, given that he has been helping WPI deliver online courses for more than a decade. His “Introduction to Engineering for Technical Managers” was the first online course developed jointly by WPI and Southern New Hampshire University.
Sullivan and Sarah Wodin-Schwartz, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, teamed up to talk with faculty members in their department about teaching for TechFlex.
“We actively talked with every faculty member," Sullivan says, "asking them how they planned on teaching this coming fall, given that some students might not be able to come to campus, and knowing their commitment to providing a quality education in any case.”
Sullivan and Wodin-Schwartz encouraged faculty to take the Morgan Teaching & Learning Center’s online pedagogy workshops to become familiar with what digital means in delivering course content, in the event they can’t teach in person.