The switch to online learning in response to the coronavirus brought the Bryant community together to do what it does best: innovate as a team to find solutions that make an impact. Dedicated to embracing new ideas, the use of connective technologies, and a collaborative spirit, the Bryant community developed new ways to provide students with the same engaging learning experience they have come to expect from the in-person classroom.
“At Bryant, we’re always striving to innovate and improve the learning experience," says Madan Annavarjula, Ph.D., Professor of Management and Dean of the College of Business. “Our recent shift to online learning gave us the opportunity to develop new skills and strategies that will aid us in rising to the challenge of ensuring the University’s students are prepared to lead in a fast developing and ever-changing world.”
A commitment to utilizing state of-the-industry technologies helped professors make the virtual classroom feel like attending a class on the Smithfield campus. Resources such as the real-time video conferencing tool Blackboard Collaborate and chat communications helped professors build a fully interactive classroom experience. Platforms such as Zoom allow for virtual office hours and professor/student consultation.
The faculty also adapted their teaching styles to prepare for teaching online. They looked at new ways to develop student engagement through interactive activities, communicate effectively online, and bridge the digital gap.
"This is a new experience for all of us, and we’re all continuing to learn. By working together, we can provide the exceptional online experience our students deserve.”
Bryant’s faculty enrolled in an online course which offered a range of modules with tips, resources and strategies for effectively teaching online. The course also provided a faculty-wide discussion board where Bryant’s educators share their progress and ideas.
A complementary program was developed by the University’s Online Learning Team to aid students in figuring out how to make the most of the online learning experience. A self-paced module full of strategies for success, the resource contains advice and insight from the University’s Academic Centers for Excellence and Douglas and Judith Krupp Library, technical support from Bryant’s Information Technology hub, and links to other helpful websites and guides. Interactive video workshops introduced them to the new classroom experience, and each professor connected with their students before courses started.
United in innovation
The entire Bryant community came together to execute the transition. The University’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), and the Bryant Online Learning Team (BOLT) held sessions focused on how to use the new technology and worked with the faculty to adapt their courses for this new medium. Faculty members also attended one-on-one consults with members of BOLT, CTE, and Bryant’s Information services staff.
Department-wide online sessions were organized and led by Bonnie Budd, a learning experience design leader with experience in higher education, corporate, and startup environments, who is skilled in a variety of learning technologies, platforms, and strategies, and other members of BOLT and CTE
The faculty engaged with each other as well, sharing ideas, insights and inspiration – and challenging one another to excel. “This is a new experience for all of us, and we’re all continuing to learn,” notes Annavarjula. “By working together, we can provide the exceptional online experience our students deserve.”