Pandemic creates university administrative challenges

What a time in higher education due to COVID-19. The spring semester with the dramatic shift to online classes has ended and virtual graduation ceremonies held. But what plans are being considered for the start of the school year next fall?

I asked Dr. David Bulla, professor and chair of the Department of Communications at Augusta University, to share his outlook from an administrator’s perspective. Bulla, a Civil War historian, taught at Iowa State University and Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates prior to joining the faculty at Augusta University.

by David W. Bulla

The first challenge is the novel coronavirus itself.

David Bulla

David Bulla at Augusta University

Once we return to face-to-face classes, how do we discourage students who exhibit virus symptoms not to attend class? How do we notify the classmates of students who have tested positive? We’re working on that policy right now.

We also have students working on the front lines—students who work in medical centers. After all, Augusta University is the home of the Medical College of Georgia, and quite a few health sciences students take media literacy and health communication classes that my department teaches, and all AU students have to take our public speaking class.

At the same time, while the novel coronavirus has come to dominate all of our waking thoughts and monopolizes the information coming to us from the news media, we really do not know that much about it.

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University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winners

Congratulations to the 20 graduate students selected as the University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winnners for 2019-2020.

The graduate students were nominated by their departments and were evaluated by the Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee.

Each student submitted a teaching portfolio, including teaching philosophy and teaching evaluations, and was observed by two members of the committee.

2019-2020 Winners

  • Akieba Allen – Theatre and Dance
  • Richard Brust – History
  • Tara Mercurio Counts – Family, Youth and Community Sciences
  • Lisa Emerson – Microbiology and Cell Science
  • Kaitlyn Erhardt – Psychology
  • Melissa Fenton – Family, Youth and Community Sciences
  • Scarlett Godinez – Chemistry
  • Ethan Kutlu – Linguistics
  • Joana Guerrero-Rodriguez – Spanish & Portuguese Studies
  • Keifer MacDonald – Theatre and Dance
  • Alicia McGrew – Natural Resources and Environment
  • Victoria McNeil – Psychology
  • Caroline Parks – Geography
  • Anthony Pastore – Chemistry
  • Moinul Rahat – Physics
  • Gerald Robinson – Applied Physiology and Kinesiology
  • John Streese – Mathematics
  • Ashley Watts – Mathematics

The top two graduate students received the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award:

  • Dina Benbrahim – Art and Art History
  • Kendall Craig – Chemistry

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COVID-19 and online teaching

In this time of unprecedented changes in higher education due to the Covid-19 pandemic, faculty, teaching assistants and adjuncts are scrambling to move their face-to-face classes to distance learning experiences.

Kevin Hull

Kevin Hull set up a small studio in a room in his house to record YouTube videos for his courses.

I asked Kevin Hull, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina, to share some insights from his experience of moving his classes to online delivery.

Hull, who also is Sports Media Lead at U of SC, was recognized this year by the university as a Breakthrough Star for his accomplishments in research at U of SC and was named a Promising Professor by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in 2018.

Prior to teaching at U of SC, Hull was a news reporter and sports reporter/sports anchor at WECT-TV in Wilmington, North Carolina, and a digital media teacher at Topsail High School in Hampstead, North Carolina.

Julie Dodd: How did you feel when you learned that you were going to be teaching your face-to-face class in a digital format?

Kevin Hull: My friend’s wife is in grad school at Boston University, and he said that she was told to be prepared for the class she was taking to be online after Spring Break. That was the first I had even thought of the possibility being a reality, but that turned out to be a big help as I started to mentally prepare myself that it might be coming for me, too. That got me starting to think about how I could alter assignments, how to do some lectures, and what would need dramatic changes. When the word came down at U of SC, I wasn’t caught completely flat-footed.

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Help students prepare for career decisions

The end of a term is challenging for college students as they complete final projects and take exams.

UF PRSSA students

These students were on the way to the PRSSA national convention. Being involved in a professionally focused student organization helps students learn more about the field and make contacts that can lead to internships and jobs.

But for many students, another big challenge comes after the term is completed and the grades are determined.

That’s when they go home and are asked by their parents, relatives and others who know them in the community: “What do you plan to do after you graduate?”

Students (even freshmen) often feel like they should know what their career goal is. But many aren’t sure or are hesitant to announce career goals in case all doesn’t go as planned.

I was reminded of students’ career concerns when I recently observed a graduate student teaching assistant who was teaching the last lab of the semester.

He ended class by asking how many students knew what their career goals were. About a third raised their hands…with a few more raising their hands, it seemed, as they thought they should know.

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9 tips for having successful class guest speakers

Julie Dodd interviewing Rafat Ali

I used a Q&A format when Skift founder Rafat Ali was a guest speaker in my Multimedia Writing class. The students were assigned to live tweet the key ideas of our conversation.

Guest speakers can be one of the highlights of a course you teach.

Good guest speakers can help students learn about trends in the industry and inspire students to excel. Good guest speakers can become contacts for your students, leading to internships or jobs.

Guest speakers can provide a range of views and can contribute to the diversity you want to incorporate in your teaching.

Guest speakers can reinforce what you’ve discussed in class and what the reading assignments have presented.

But not everyone automatically is going to be a good guest speaker.

Let me offer some tips for having a great experience for your students and the guest speaker. I offer this advice based on years of inviting guest speakers to class – with classes ranging from a dozen graduate students to an undergraduate class with more than 200 students.

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Students who are tardy to class — What can you do?

If you’re a classroom instructor, you know that students who are tardy to class create a problem for you, their classmates and themselves.

Students who are late to class can become a distraction to you and their classmates, making noise in getting seated or letting the classroom door close loudly or making noise in getting seated.

The tardy students will have missed announcements or directions by being late and then may ask you or their classmates to explain what they have missed.

If a quiz or assignment is underway, the tardy students may ask for additional time to make up for the time they missed by being late.

What can you as a teacher do about students who are tardy to class, especially those students who are frequently tardy to class?

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Advice for new teachers for teaching success from UF’s orientation for teaching assistants

UF TA orientation - photo by Daniel Brotherton

Presenting in Carlton Auditorium is a challenge due to its size. My teaching strategies included moving out from behind the lectern, using easy-to-read slides, and getting the TAs involved. Photo by Daniel Brotherton

More than 400 new teaching assistants attended the University of Florida’s TA Orientation as they prepared to start their teaching assignments next week.

I was honored to be one of the presenters for the half-day program. My topic was Preparing for the First Week of Class, and I had 45 minutes to cover a lot of ground.

Here are some highlights of my advice to the TAs:

Get ready for the start of class

  • Meet with your course supervisor to determine your teaching duties, learn how you’ll be evaluated, obtain the course materials, and learn about the course and the students.
  • Find your classroom and try out the video projection unit and the chalkboard or whiteboard (to make sure you are writing large enough for it to be read by students sitting in the back of the class).
  • Plan your schedule with the courses you’ll take, the courses you’ll be teaching, your office hours, your meetings and deadlines…and remembering to include time for fitness activities, meals and sleep.
  • Review your online persona/avatar and make any needed adjustments to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, dating apps, etc.

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UF Orientation for Graduate Student Teachers, Aug. 13

College students working with partners in auditorium

In my session, I’ll include a Think-Pair-Share activity to demonstrate how active learning can be incorporated into class, even in large auditoriums. This is a photo from last year’s orientation. Photo by Ashleigh Kathryn

More than 400 new teaching assistants at the University of Florida will be attending the Orientation for Graduate Teaching Assistants on Aug. 13.

I’m honored to be one of the faculty on the program. The orientation always is an upbeat and exciting time as we help the teaching assistants begin their teaching at UF.

The half-day orientation includes presentations by veteran faculty and a panel discussion of outstanding teaching assistants and faculty who coordinate TAs.

The panel includes Falcon Restrepo-Ramos and Morgan Yacoe, who I had the opportunity to observe last year as a member of the Graduate Student Teacher Awards Committee.

UF TA Orientation promoHere’s the program:

8:30 am – 9:00 am       Check-in

9:00 am – 9:15 am       Welcome and Orientation Overview
Dr. R. Paul Duncan, Senior Associate Dean, Graduate School

9:15 am – 10:00 am     Planning for Learning
Dr. Elizabeth Bondy, Professor, School of Teaching & Learning

10:00 am – 10:15 am   Graduate Assistants United: Creating a Professional Working Environment at UF
GAU Representatives

10:15 am – 10:30 am   BREAK

10:30 am – 11:15 am   Preparing for the First Week of Class
Dr. Julie Dodd, Professor Emeritus, Journalism & Communications

11:15 am – 12:00 pm   Advice From Panel of Experts

  • Andrew Wolpert, Associate Professor, Classics, Director of IDS 1161: What is the Good Life and UF Quest 1                                 
  • E. Christine Davis, Senior Lecturer & Undergraduate Coordinator, Biology
  • Melanie K. Viege, Senior Lecturer, Director of General Chemistry
  • Falcon Restrepo-Ramos, Spanish & Portuguese Studies
  • Morgan Yacoe, Art and Art History
  • Ashley Erb, Chemistry
  • Chris Brewer, Chemistry

12:00 pm – 12:30 pm  Center for Teaching Excellence: Passport to Great Teaching: TA Edition
Jennifer K. Smith, Director
Alexandra Bitton-Bailey, Ph.D. Candidate, Academic Innovation Specialist

The program will be from 8:30 am to 12:30 in Carleton Auditorium.

Professional development for graduate teaching assistants

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos and EUS/SPN 4930 students

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos (front row in Gator blue shirt) with his students at the Student Symposium of Language policies in the multilingual European landscape (EUS/SPN 4930), Spring 2019.

by Falcon Restrepo-Ramos
Hispanic Linguistics, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies
University of Florida

Years in grad school might seem like a tremendous endeavor for anyone pursuing a graduate degree. Such experience entails years of courses, research, coffee, and, in my case and many others, teaching.

Precisely, the figure of graduate teaching assistant (GTA) in one of the biggest state universities in the country (Go Gators!) not only carries a great deal of work but also memorable moments and many opportunities for innovative teaching and professional development.

Aside from the many different responsibilities of GTAs, which at times feels overwhelming, there are also grants, awards, programs and funding support that can make the University of Florida GTA experience professionally rewarding.

Here I would like to list two main lines of teaching and professional development that helped me maximize my GTA experience at UF. As you will see below, this list follows incremental steps towards a set of goals.

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Universal Design: Instruction for students with learning disabilities

by Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

The goal of any successful instructor is to teach the course in a way all students will understand. But how can college teachers plan instruction for students with special needs, specifically students with learning disabilities?

With the passage of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act, teachers are required to make necessary accommodations to any student with a learning disability.

As the law states, “No otherwise qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity”  (Section 504).

Some of these accommodations could include providing a note-taker, preferential seating, additional time on tests and assignments, providing copies of lesson plans and assignments, or allowing video or audio recording of lectures.

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