In the interest of bettering the current state of online courses, the University of California Office of the President made Remote Course Conversion (RCC) grants available for certain instructors. The grants were awarded to professors who were teaching classes that had already been adapted to an online platform, but especially to those who teach undergraduate courses that satisfy general education or major requirements and/or courses that tend to have large waitlists.
According to UCR Keep Teaching, based on “the investments in technologies, such as Canvas, YuJa, Slack, and Gradescope,” UCR is now able to support more in-depth and higher quality online courses. Thus, last month, the Office of the Provost, Undergraduate Education and Exploration Center for Innovative Teaching & Engagement (XCITE) announced 19 UCR faculty recipients of the RCC grants, allotting $8,000 per awardee.
Some of the overarching goals of the RCC grants include: the promotion of greater student access by providing more high-quality remote classes at UCR, the promotion of student success through teaching innovation and best practices in online course design, the upkeep of instructional quality through meeting national, proven quality assurance standards and the maintenance of instructional equity by embracing equitable and inclusive teaching and accessibility.
In striving towards these goals, RCC recipients are expected to work alongside one of XCITE’s instructional consultants in addition to completing a corresponding 10-week long online training certification from the Online Learning Consortium. The course development will be geared towards incorporating pedagogical technology with an emphasis on asynchronous adaptation in order to allow for maximum flexibility as well as meeting certain accommodations by video captioning and upholding a design that meets universal standards.
The Highlander spoke to a few RCC recipients on their experiences with online teaching and how they anticipate making use of this initiative.
Katja Guenther, associate professor of gender and sexuality studies, affirmed that the move to online learning has profoundly impacted her teaching, especially when combined with the general stressors that came with the last year. Having to rethink and reorganize her teaching methods in a way that translates well remotely has been quite time-consuming for Guenther, especially since she is aware and trying to be conscious of the high levels of stress that have been affecting students.
“In the future, I hope that faculty and students who are teaching and learning online are doing so because it’s a choice that they make to best meet their specific needs and the needs of specific courses,” she stated.
Guenther is particularly looking forward to the certification program that she and the other recipients are set to complete. Coupled with XCITE’s Instructional Design Team, she hopes to find ways to better teach her introductory courses, particularly as it pertains to fostering a sense of community amongst students. According to Guenther, finding ways to support community development and engagement within the classroom and outside of it was difficult in an online setting. With help from the RCC grant funds, she hopes to engage with technologies and tools that enable students to work together and engage with one another in different ways in order to create “a sense of community with each other and with the campus and region.”
For Joab Corey, associate professor of economics, it had been five years since he had taught an online course. However, he was fortunate in that two years ago, he had participated in a summer workshop dedicated to online teaching. Corey was reportedly able to implement many of the strategies that he had learned about previously, like designing weekly prerecorded learning modules, lectures and review sessions in order to accommodate different time zones and schedules.
“It has definitely taken a lot more time and work for me to create lecture videos and set up an effective online class, than to teach in a face-to-face setting,” Corey stated, ”but I have learned a lot in the process and I am looking at it as a valuable learning experience.”
When considering the RCC funds, Corey envisions a large portion going towards improving accessibility, namely using a more professional captioning service in order to make sure that all lectures and materials can be read by those with hearing impairments. He also wants to explore the ways in which the quality of pre-recorded lecture videos can be made better.
Corey emphasized his appreciation of his students’ patience and understanding during this time.
Though continuously navigating remote learning has been exceedingly trying for both students and teachers alike, Corey is striving toward making it easier for everyone. “I will continue to do my best to give students a flexible and affecting learning experience and will strive to continually improve the quality of instruction in my classes,” he concluded.