Baylor Fall Preparations: Course Delivery
Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
I am continually inspired by the creativity, resourcefulness and innovation of Baylor’s dedicated faculty. While these qualities are always evident in our faculty teaching and scholarship, I’ve seen them emerge in fresh and exciting ways as Baylor faculty have worked over the summer to enhance our ability to teach online with excellence in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One such example of our faculty’s creative approaches in adapting experiential courses for hybrid and online formats is the work of Dr. Cole Matson, who found a way to bring the field to the Baylor students in his environmental science course as shown in this video.
As Provost Brickhouse often says, we are committed to providing a Baylor-quality education to our students, regardless of the method of course delivery. This fall, we plan to deliver the highest percentage of our classes in either a face-to-face or hybrid format. However, the University may need to adapt in response to COVID-19 during the semester and we must prepare to be academically flexible.
In light of this, the Professional Education team within the Provost’s office, the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) and the University Libraries have collaboratively led a summer-long effort to help our faculty further develop their skills for teaching in multiple formats. I’d like you to know about some of the ways these teams are equipping Baylor’s faculty for the task:
- This year, Baylor’s annual Summer Faculty Institute, our five-week, intensive development opportunity for faculty, explicitly focused on hybrid and online teaching. Given this focus, it’s appropriate that the Institute was held via Zoom for the first time in its 42-year history! “We intentionally retooled and refocused our Faculty Institute on the current context,” ATL Director Lenore Wright told me. “Every day we asked ourselves questions like, ‘What does it mean to serve in the context of a pandemic? How do we use technology to teach interactively?’”
- At the ATL’s annual three-day Course Makeover Workshops, about 50 faculty participants from various academic disciplines redesigned their existing courses for an online environment, taking into account best practices in course development pedagogy.
- Vice Provost Gary Carini and his team developed a one-on-one mentorship program that pairs experienced online instructors with instructors who are new to online teaching – often connecting them by academic discipline or career stage. “It’s about tailoring the conversation to best meet the needs of the faculty member who’s just starting to teach online,” he says. To date, about 400 faculty members have taken part in the mentoring initiative.
- Each year, the University hosts a series of one-hour Seminars for Excellence in Teaching. These seminars facilitate the sharing of ideas and insights about teaching and learning. This fall, seminar topics will address teaching and learning online in light of the COVID-19 environment.
- Because our commitment is to the development of students as whole people, our faculty training is not limited to providing excellent subject matter education online. It also includes insights on how we can use these modes of delivery as a transformative, caring community of committed Christians. The video series “Being Baylor Online” features faculty conversations about cultivating hospitality, building community and integrating our Christian faith into online learning environments. This series complements the ongoing work of our Institute for Faith and Learning.
- This year, we will be initiating a series of Faculty Flourishing messages. These touchpoints with faculty will include ongoing instructional tips along with insights to care for their well-being.
- And earlier this week, Provost Brickhouse announced a partnership with iDesign, a Dallas-based instructional design firm. iDesign has worked with more than 100 institutions to design, build and support award-winning online courses. This partnership will provide Baylor faculty with additional resources for developing compelling online courses and shifting quickly between delivery formats as needed. Our team is especially pleased not only by the firm’s knowledge of best practices in teaching and learning, but also by the way the iDesign team is customizing its offerings for Baylor’s unique Christian mission and values.
Along with our faculty, I can’t wait for our students to return to campus. Our preparations for this unpredictable time are rooted in our historic Christian commitment to a transformational education for all members of the community. We’re excited to start another academic year together and look forward to seeing you soon.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.