Online course expert has lesson for professors affected by coronavirus measures

As it sweeps the state, COVID-19 has dramatically altered how we traverse day-to-day life.

This is especially true for many college professors, who are having to transition from their regular face-to-face courses to online education virtually overnight, in an effort by universities to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect students and faculty.

Having to shift a curriculum online could be causing anxiety for many professors, as well as the students who are having their school experience just as dramatically changed.

So, in this time of crisis, how can professors adapt more easily to online study, the better for them and their students?

Thomas Edison State University in Trenton is a majority online-only college, and its experience in the method gives it plenty to offer in the way of advice for professors making this transition.

ROI-NJ interviewed Matthew Cooper, vice provost of learning and technology at TESU, on that exact subject.

“I would say, first and foremost to anyone who needs to hear this message, that there’s a huge difference between converting a face-to-face course to an online format and trying to build one from scratch.” Cooper said.

He warned against getting too wrapped up in the complexity of the technology and urged teachers to remember that there are plenty of tools out there, online or otherwise, for them to pick up and try out to enhance the online experience for them and their students.

Cooper also noted how it is less important that professors have the perfect setup for their course than it is to just have good communication with their students.

“Just trying to find a way to provide presence in the course is probably the most important thing a faculty member can do for their students,” he said. “Being active in discussion boards for your students, posting course announcements and providing really excellent feedback on assignments, and putting a lot of time and effort into that written format.”

Cooper states that, as professors must reorganize on such short notice, video may not be the best method of communication.

“Sometimes video is necessary,” he said. “And I get that, as well. But, at the same time, not getting wrapped up and making it perfect — like editing an outtake out with things like ‘ums’ or whatever else would be overkill. Because that’s not really what students are looking for right now.”

Universities that have a learning management system, Cooper noted, already have an asset at their disposal, since these systems have simple versions of essential tools to administer and deliver a course.

“The tools are important, and I think if you leverage the ones that are the core functions and do them right, you can really cover a lot of ground — and that creates a good experience for your students.”

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