From many angles, the transition to remote teaching proceeded relatively smoothly over the Spring 2020 Quarter. This success has been in part because technological and pedagogical innovation are deeply rooted in UCI’s culture. The campus already had the tools and resources needed to make the shift to remote teaching. But what made all the difference was the sense of community and shared mission in regard to teaching.
Faculty members quickly came together to support each other and offer viable solutions to address the unique challenges of remote teaching. From the School of Social Ecology’s establishment of the Remote Instruction Resource Team to the School of Social Sciences’ assignment of faculty coaches to assist their fellow faculty in various departments, UCI’s campus has seen many inspiring instances of inter-faculty support.
Faculty who have partnered with the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI) have also taken considerable efforts to share their expertise and assist other faculty members as they adjust to the unique conditions of remote instruction.
Faculty Fellows Step Up to Help
Participants in the Provost Faculty Fellows and the DTEI Faculty Fellows programs are at the forefront of transforming the culture of teaching and learning at UCI every day. As part of their role, they take part in pedagogical projects that support evidence-based teaching practices. This Spring, this group leveraged their unique skills and experience to support other faculty members in the shift to remote teaching.
To ease the uncertainty and stress of moving to a remote educational setting, Provost Faculty Fellows Angela Jenks (School of Social Sciences), Laura Mitchell (School of Humanities) and Miryha Runnerstrom (Program in Public Health) and DTEI Faculty Fellows Shannon Alfaro (Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences) and Paul Spencer (School of Humanities) held virtual office hours to offer support in real-time. During this time, they answered questions, provided examples of remote teaching options and offered suggestions for effective teaching strategies. They also hosted discussions and reading groups to encourage faculty interaction and conversation on topics such as student engagement and inclusive teaching.
UCI Active Learning Institute Alumni Offer Support
The core techniques and strategies learned at UCI’s Active Learning Institute (ALI) — setting course goals, employing active learning activities and assignments, and using technology and instructional tools — have prepared the program’s alumni for the transition to remote teaching. To support their colleagues, many ALI alumni have offered their assistance during this critical time. Leveraging their knowledge of pedagogical innovation and their familiarity with the technology often utilized in active learning courses, ALI alumni hosted office hours to provide advice and examples from their own classes to help faculty adjust their courses to be more effective in a remote environment.
For instance, ALI alumnus and Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Department of Chemistry Stephen Mang began hosting virtual office hours on Zoom to answer faculty questions about preparing videos for asynchronous delivery and publishing them on Canvas. He also attended group discussions to address questions on how to adjust to remote instruction. Speaking on why he felt it was important to assist his fellow faculty, he explains:
This is a difficult time for everyone because transitioning a class to remote delivery takes a lot of time and effort. Those of us who are more familiar with Canvas, or who have been recording and posting videos for years, can help our colleagues and their students by sharing our experiences and giving advice. Talking to colleagues about making their classes remote has also given me good insights about how to adjust my own courses.
Stacy Branham, another ALI alumna and Assistant Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science, also volunteered to host office hours to assist her fellow faculty members as they adjusted to remote teaching. Recalling her efforts to ease the transition, she describes:
During those sessions I spoke to about a half dozen faculty seeking help with tools like Zoom, Canvas and various online testing platforms. Questions ranged from basic logistics (“How do I show a video with audio on Zoom while sharing my screen?” and “Why can’t students copy links I paste in Zoom’s chat?”) to more philosophical questions about pedagogy (“How can I test fairly when students are remote?”). The ALI prepared me for this transition to remote teaching in two ways. First, it gave me space and scaffolding to re-think teaching strategies and tools while incorporating what I know and do best: accessible computing. Second, it helped me feel comfortable with more spontaneous student engagement that allowed me to be responsive to changing student needs as early as the last week of courses in Winter 2020.
Praise for Faculty Fellows and ALI Alumni
Bert Winther-Tamaki, Chair and Professor of Art History, was one of the faculty who attended office hours and received personalized assistance as he transitioned his spring courses to online platforms. He recalls:
I attended the office hours of the Faculty Fellows Shannon Alfaro and Paul Spencer, as well as Andrea Aebersold and Megan Linos in March and April when I was quite anxious about the abrupt transition of my two Spring Quarter courses to online/remote delivery. I had used Canvas previously, but only some of its functions, and knew nothing about Zoom or YuJa. It was quite a daunting task to get up to speed with these complicated and counter-intuitive systems. It was such a busy period that I couldn’t afford the time to make mistakes and experiment with new technologies. The FAQs and “chat” and “ticket” functions for anonymous technical assistance were not working for me. The five or six individual help sessions allowed me to solve issues I was facing immediately. Looking back now after having recorded about sixty module lectures and hosted over twenty Zoom seminars and meetings, I am very grateful for the patient and resourceful one-on-one help I received.
As the head of the Faculty Fellows program and the ALI, DTEI’s Director of Faculty Instructional Development Andrea Aebersold recognizes the extra effort that faculty have made to support each other during this challenging time. She says:
“I am so grateful for the faculty who volunteered their time to support the campus in the move to remote teaching. Their expertise and guidance have been invaluable.”
While the shift to a remote campus setting was abrupt, the ongoing efforts of UCI’s faculty to join together and create a supportive community has made the transition possible.
- Moving forward, a short-guide to remote course development is available here.
- A wide-range of resources on technology and pedagogical approaches will be available here starting in July.
- The DTEI Graduate Student Fellows program will run this summer to help support faculty with the preparation of Academic Year 2020-2021 courses. Interested faculty should contact their associate deans for more information on the program.
- For details on DTEI’s programs and resources for faculty, click here.
- For more information on UCI’s campuswide transition to remote teaching, click here.
- For insights on the transition to remote teaching and learning for graduate students, click here.