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Overview Statement

My desire to complete the M.Ed. in Instructional Design and Development began in the spring of 2020.  On Thursday 12 March 2020 I received an email from the president of my university informing me that starting the following Monday all classes would be suspended for two weeks at all USG institutions to “allow time for USG institutions to test their business continuity plans and online instruction modules.”  This two-week instructional hiatus became a complete campus closure for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester and all of the Summer 2020 semester.  The faculty was informed of the decision to remain remote on or about 18 March 2020.  At the beginning of the “break” I had never used the online teaching tools available to me.  I relied on the stock and standard lecture model of instruction supplemented with reading, homework, and tests.  This was the predominant method of instruction at my university with approximately 95% of instruction being handled this way.  The remaining 5% or so being primarily use of electronic homework from various publishers. 

 

Now my colleagues and I were being asked to adapt teaching materials that had taken years to develop to an asynchronous online format.  For perspective, in the spring semester of 2020 I taught CHEM 4841K (Biochemistry I with a lab), CHEM 4926 (Special Topics in Biochemistry – Plant Biochemistry), CHEM 3100 (Survey of Biochemistry), and CHEM 1211/1211L (General Chemistry I with a lab section for science majors).   Now I was being asked to move four lecture preps and two lab preps online in the space of a week.  This sudden shift online was “not popular” with most faculty and students.  In the following weeks two primary modes of dealing with the situation arose.  The first, and most common, method that many of my colleagues employed was to simply dop the bare minimum to cover the courses in the assumption that things would return to normal quickly.  The second method was to assume that the conditions imposed by the pandemic would persist for some time and to try to create a course prep that would be of long-term benefit to our students and to teaching the course in the future. 

 

I have to admit that during the end of the Spring 2020 semester I employed the first method.  I was just trying to survive in the short term.  As the pandemic continued I was informed that I would be teaching remotely for the remainder of 2020 and through the summer semester of 2021.  At this point I decided that online education was going to play an increasingly important role in “traditional” higher education and that I needed to be prepared for the challenges imposed by this paradigm shift.

Another issue that became apparent to me early in my teaching career was that many of my colleagues and I had no formal training in the art and science of teaching and learning.  When I began teaching at the college level, I realized something about my graduate education in biochemistry.  While my education and training at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky had prepared me to be an excellent chemist and biochemist I had not been taught how to teach and prepare course materials.  I had little understanding or knowledge of modern cognitive theories.  The only tool that I had in my “teaching toolbox” was simply to teach my classes as I had been taught.  Like other faculty, I learned from trial and error.  I learned from my peers and from experience what worked and what did not work.  I also attended professional development seminars and conferences.  My takeaway from all these activities is that I still have a lot to learn about the science of teaching and learning.

So I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Education.  With the help of my advisor, Dr. Jill Stefaniak, I pursued classes that allowed me to learn more about how students learn and how to create content to support learning.  My focus was on online education as one might encounter in a typical undergraduate online course.  The experience has been tremendously valuable to me as an educator.  I am in the process of updating all of my courses, both online and face-to-face, to incorporate the skills that I have learned during my time in the M.Ed. program.  There has been a significant positive impact on my students.  For example, after adding a significant amount of targeted online material and resources my face-to-face CHEM 1211K course has seen a further reduction of the DWF rate.  This means that more of the students who begin my CHEM 1211 class will pass the class with the skills they need to continue in their science education. 

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