HAMMOND and WESTVILLE, Ind. – While higher education institutions are adapting to the reality of the global pandemic, professors like Purdue University Northwest’s Beth Vottero are planning the most successful path forward for their students.
Vottero, an associate professor and Nurse Educator Program Coordinator at Purdue Northwest (PNW), will offer lectures, small group meetings, larger class discussions, and breakout rooms during class sessions this fall – all delivered via the Zoom online platform.
“Students need to feel connected to the professor, their classmates and the university,” Vottero said. “By having live class sessions online, I can interact with students and respond to questions quickly and easily. This fits with the content of my courses.”
Vottero is among hundreds of PNW professors who have worked hard this summer to redesign courses to ensure students have the types of engaging learning experiences that are hallmarks of a Purdue Northwest education. PNW is planning proactively to keep students connected to their faculty and classmates while studying on campus, online or in a combination of face-to-face and virtual instruction.
“Our faculty members have a passion for teaching and know that engagement is a key to student success. They are working tirelessly this summer to design engaging learning experiences to be offered in a variety of instructional formats,” said Emily Hixon, director of PNW’s Center for Faculty Excellence and a professor of Education.
Courses offered in four formats
Purdue Northwest will offer courses this fall in four formats: face-to-face, hybrid, virtual classroom, and 100% online.
Gokarna Aryal, professor of Statistics, will teach in the face-to-face, virtual classroom and hybrid modes of instruction during fall semester. Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, he is committed to providing his students with the best possible learning experience.
“Even more, I am equally committed to converting these challenges into opportunities for my students and giving them options of their preferences,” he said. “Students at PNW are very eager, creative, and hard-working. I thoroughly enjoy working with them as I get to see their growth in creativity, commitment to problem-solving, and enthusiasm in exploring new ideas.”
Preparing for fall semester
Aryal participated in the PIVOT (Planning Instruction for Varied Offering Types) program offered by the Center for Faculty Excellence and the Office of Instructional Technology. PNW has offered a Digital Learning Certificate for its faculty for more than 13 years. Before this year, more than half of the university’s faculty already had gone through the cohort-based program that enhances the skills required to offer and teach online courses.
Now, with COVID-19 rapidly increasing the demand for online and hybrid courses, under the leadership of Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Chris Holford and Interim Associate Vice Chancellor Rachel Clapp Smith, the Center this summer accelerated professional development in the design of remote courses to 100 additional faculty members. Hixon noted that in the spring, courses designed to be taught in the classroom were quickly changed to be taught remotely due to the emergency situation, to protect everyone’s health and safety.
Given more time to intentionally plan the experiences for students for fall, the Center worked with the Office of Instructional Technology and faculty to apply all that is known about the design of remote courses, including engaging students, providing opportunities for research, and aligning activities to learning objectives to promote student success. Technology and tools also have been updated, and workshops have been provided to faculty on using the various tools to support learning.
With a background teaching both face-to-face and online courses, David Pratt believes community building is vital in every mode of course delivery. Pratt, an associate professor of Education, was an early advocate of technology throughout his 18-year career at PNW.
“There needs to be a sense of belonging and it is important for students to get to know and work with each other on a deeper level,” he stated. “This can be accomplished with lots of discussion and group activities in the classroom and through video assignments online. Building relationships makes the learning experience much more meaningful and enjoyable.”
For more information about fall semester at Purdue Northwest, visit the Student Guide.
Purdue University Northwest
Purdue University Northwest (PNW) is a student-centered university that values academic excellence, supports growth and celebrates diversity. Located in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago, PNW fosters a vibrant academic community through high quality and engaging undergraduate and graduate education. For more information about PNW, visit www.pnw.edu.