Faculty Facing Classroom Transition With Innovation

April 15, 2020

Here are just a few stories of Hudson Valley Community College faculty and departments who are finding unique and innovative ways of serving their students in a remote or online teaching modality.

Mike Bender, Electrical Construction and Maintenance

Mike Bender's Motor Control Theory and AC Theory Lab at home
Mike Bender's Motor Control Theory and AC Theory Lab at home

Assistant Professor Mike Bender considers himself to be a “glass half full” kind of guy, so when his Motor Control Theory and AC Theory courses and labs were shifted out of the Williams Hall due to the COVID 19 outbreak, he looked for the best possible solution for his students.

“We have 22 hours of class session a week and 14 of that is hands-on in the labs, so we needed to come up with some kind of solution,” he said.

Bender’s solution was to turn a room in his house into a teaching lab. He hung a white board, found an 8-foot piece of plywood to cover his pool table and brought in some equipment from his labs on campus.

“This is a challenging time, but we are doing the best we can and the students seem to appreciate it,” he said. “Basically, what I’m doing is showing them everything they would be doing in the labs. I’m doing the labs and answering questions. So far, it’s going very well, better than I thought.”

Bender said one of the things he’s most proud of is the collaboration he’s seen working with his fellow faculty members in the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program. When the call came about moving classes and labs off campus, he and fellow faculty member Jim Countryman connected to brainstorm. He said all of the ECM faculty members have been involved in creating videos with TechSmith Relay that are used in his labs.

Bender and Countryman were asked to speak at a SUNY-wide Zoom webinar last week where colleges could share unique and innovative solutions to teaching remotely and online.

Thom Lail and Tara Fracalossi, Fine Arts

Studio art classes involve close faculty and student interaction, serious critiques of student work and a fair amount of camaraderie among the students. How do you shift that to a Zoom meeting space? Ask Fine Art professors Thom Lail and Tara Fracalossi, who’ve converted their home studio spaces into teaching studios.

Using a two-camera set-up and the Zoom meeting platform, they can project dual images to their synchronous class meetings each week, showing themselves as well as an object that they are working on or referencing.

Lail and Fracalossi teach many of the design, drawing and painting courses offered in the Fine Arts program and Tara also teaches Gallery Intro and Gallery Practicum courses, which pose a special challenge because of the hands-on nature of gallery work. Tara said one project she’s contemplating later in the semester is having her gallery students curate an “at home” exhibition that relates directly to their quarantine experience. They’ll curate and show the objects at home but still be responsible for all of the work that would go into hanging a show at a gallery.

Both professors said they were complete newbies to the online or remote learning world and just wanted to find innovative and helpful ways to use the technology that was provided when the campus closed. They said they have each found breakout groups and other functions in the Zoom platform to mimic some of the small group work they do in the actual classroom.

“We really have to thank the distance learning staff. They been very patient with our questions and did a lot of the heavy lifting in helping us get this set up,” Lail said. “The fact that the IT and DL staff we have (at Hudson Valley) are head and shoulders above other colleges is important.”

Finally, both said that meeting on a regular class schedule with their students has been beneficial for academic continuity but also for community. “I think students are just happy to be meeting and to be engaged in the course,” Lail said. “We shouldn’t underestimate or forget the connected-ness students have with their faculty.”

Teacher Preparation Department

Student teachers need students to teach and that’s made more difficult when all public schools across the state have been moved to online instruction.

Here’s how Department Chair Toni Howard and her faculty have addressed that need for teaching requirements for Adolescent Education, Early Childhood and Early Childhood Administration students. The department is using three main avenues to meet the classroom observation or student teaching requirements, and Howard said she received confirmation from State Education Department, her four-year transfer partners and her accrediting bodies to pursue these innovative ways to meet the requirements.

“Thanks to SUNY, we have many students using ATLAS, a library of authentic video cases showing National Board Certified Teachers at work in the classroom. This offers more than 1,300 cases covering most subjects, grades and school settings and students are responsible for logging in, reviewing a variety of videos, and completing various assessment and reflection assignments specific to the videos reviewed. We created a universal documentation system whereby students will fill out a weekly log for faculty to review.

We have many teachers who are using Google classroom, Google Meet and Zoom with several of our local elementary schools and some child care school settings. Students were cleared by the districts or child care center to be added to the teacher’s roster prior to the schools closing.

We have Early Childhood Administration students who were approved for a “Work for Field” arrangement. They are already employed as head teachers, assistant teachers, assistant directors or directors and are incurring their hours while still at work as their schools and child care centers have remained open.”

Howard said that if students are not able to engage in any of these practices for technological reasons, the faculty are working with them on an individual basis to arrange for extensions until they are hopefully able to re-enter the schools where they were originally placed.

She said faculty involved in internship and field courses are also using Zoom to provide opportunities for their students to demonstrate teaching competencies such as reading a children’s book, implementing a lesson plan or developing an open-ended art activity, to name a few.

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