Transition to Online Class: Q&A with Professor Marisel Torres-Crespo

Zoom Meeting

Classes went online in late March due to the coronavirus.

Transition to Teaching Online

Photo above: Members of the Department of Education in a Zoom meeting.

Marisel Torres-Crespo, Ph.D., associate professor of education and coordinator of online instruction, discussed the process of quickly changing to online instruction due to the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged institutions of higher education to move instruction online. Explain the role of the new committee created for this.

I am on the OTT (Online Transition Team), a committee helping faculty members explore the best ways to deliver courses online. We created a one-day workshop in which every one of us talked about a specific topic related to online education. People participated in person and through Blackboard Collaborate (a video conference service).

The OTT also created the Online Teaching Buddies through which the faculty was divided by discipline/department. Each member of the OTT was paired with different departments to help with any question and concerns.

As a coordinator of online instruction, I was part of every conversation and decision-making process. I also taught the Prep and Check training, an intensive, 5-day workshop that prepared the faculty teaching online summer sessions, to transition their courses from F2F (face to face) to an online modality.

How were you picked to be on the committee of leaders?

I have a lot of experience in online teaching from previous institutions, and I love to integrate technology elements in my F2F classes. I love technology so much that I have been doing research for the last eight years, since I have been at Hood, on how to integrate appropriate technology in the early years (my area is early childhood education).

Who are the other professors/faculty involved with this process?

The OTT includes me; April Boulton, dean of the Graduate School; Heather Mitchell-Buck, associate professor of English; and Jeff Welsh, instructional technologist. We meet consistently to address any new needs or concerns.

What were your thoughts on transitioning to online classes?

Transitioning to online classes was a necessary step, and Hood College moved quickly in that direction, saving the semester for the students. But this is NOT online teaching in terms of best practices. This was an emergency, and we were in an emergency mode.

We moved everything that we have in F2F classes into a computer. We provided training to faculty to facilitate that process. Teaching how to use Blackboard more effectively, including Collaborate and how to upload tests on Blackboard, etc. Some of the topics that I am integrating in the Prep and Check training are more aligned to best practices. Faculty have been very receptive and positive.

Something else that I want to state is that people are associating online teaching/learning with being in isolation and without being able to get out of their houses. The reason people cannot get out of their houses is because of COVID-19 and NOT because of the online teaching/learning.

5. Given online/distance learning is new for students and faculty, what consideration, if any, has been given to the way student engagement and performance is graded?

The provost sent an email stating students had the option of getting a grade or S/U (satisfactory/unsatisfactory). That way we took into consideration challenges and struggles for them.

6. Obviously, this is a stressful time for faculty, administration and students. How has this experience challenged you professionally and personally? What advice would you give to your colleagues and students in this uncertain time?

Yes, it was a very stressful semester for everyone involved (not only OTT). Everyone—students, colleagues, families—everyone went through something new this semester. My advice is to try to take one day at a time with a positive attitude. In our case, faculty members moving from F2F teaching to online need to be open to try new ways to engage students. We all need to be patient. We are going to get to the other side successfully and with a new technology content knowledge that we did not have before.

Hood College is a great place to work with the best colleagues and an administration that moved quickly to make everything work for students and faculty.