College of Business faculty use innovative techniques to engage with students

College of Business faculty use innovative techniques to engage with students

G eorgia College faculty have risen to the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Although their classrooms may look a bit different, faculty continue to have their students’ education as the top priority.

Over the last several months, many faculty in the College of Business reimagined their courses in new and innovative ways.

Brad Fowler teaches his class.
Brad Fowler teaches his class.

“When we went online in the spring, we had to make a major pivot, and that's really where all this started for me,” said Brad Fowler, lecturer of management information systems.

At that point, he completely reworked his courses utilizing the flipped classroom concept—in which traditional ideas about classroom activities and homework are reversed or "flipped."

“Students interact with the content online first, and then I use the class time for reinforcement as opposed to instruction,” said Fowler. “It's worked out really well so far because if students miss class, they're not missing instruction. They're missing reinforcement, but they're not missing actual instruction.”

In his principles of information systems, introduction to information technology and business publishing courses, he’s also moved away from traditional textbooks, and instead primarily has students use resources found online. He engages students through discussions and activities all reinforcing the content they’ve been presented ahead of time. His model also allows for students to all have access to the content at any given time since it’s posted online.

Student take notes in Fowler's class.
Student take notes in Fowler's class.

“My biggest concern was continuity. I feel like the students really appreciate continuity,” said Fowler. “I think they also kind of appreciate the flexibility of it, especially in this time of uncertainty and weirdness.”

Dr. Gita Phelps, associate professor of computer science, uses several tools in her courses to engage and interact with students. As a high-risk faculty member, her courses are taught in an online format, so she spent the summer months researching the best techniques and finding the best tools to help students.

“During the summer I participated in several webinars sponsored by University System of Georgia that featured best practices in teaching online,” said Phelps. “Staff from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) also helped me practice different presentation techniques and figure out which platform I needed to use.”

Her courses are typically taught in a computer lab where she can walk around and look at the students’ screens. To fill that gap, she uses Google Slides. At any point in the class, she asks students to take a screenshot and paste it in the Google Slide for Phelps to see. This helps “me make sure they’re following me,” said Phelps.

She starts each class with a couple of questions on the homework posted online before class. She also uses Pear Deck, an add-on to Google Slide that allows for polling questions where she can then discuss the student’s responses.

“My degree is in computer science, but my minor is instructional technology,” said Phelps. “I'm really always looking forward to different ways trying to find out how to reach my students better.”

A team of Georgia College staff members serve as a resource for Phelps and other faculty members as they work out how to continue providing the high-quality education Georgia College is known for.

“The Center for Teaching and Learning is fantastic. We had the weekly sessions in the summer where people came to share their concerns and present different tools,” said Phelps. “I presented Pear Deck comparing it to Nearpod. It was helpful seeing different tools and software others where using.”

Dr. Gita Phelps works with her students.
Dr. Gita Phelps works with her students.

The CTL staff starting pulling together programming early on as the pandemic hit. They knew faculty would need resources and training to pivot from traditional instruction to the online format that came in the spring as well as the transition back to campus in the fall for the modified face-to-face instruction.

“During the spring semester, we had a lot of faculty coming in, working on their courses, setting up courses in Georgia View,” said Dr. Jim Berger, director of CTL. “We also knew we needed to help some faculty understand how to work with their students in the new environment.”

They responded by increasing their programming through videos, tutorials, webinars and their D2L training courses. They also used demonstrations to show faculty the new technology available in some classrooms and walked them through how to teach in a hybrid format with the tools.

“That meant I would wear my mask, and I would teach behind the Plexiglas barrier,” said Berger. “I would use the camera that they had installed to show what it was like. I would give them an activity, and I'd demonstrate what it was like if they tried to have students follow along with the PowerPoint.”

Everybody on my team chipped into work together to create the programming. I can't say enough about how great they are. They served the faculty quite well during this time.
– Dr. Jim Berger, director of CTL

As the requests from faculty changed, CTL staff modified their programming and offerings to meet the needs.

“Everybody on my team chipped into work together to create the programming. I can't say enough about how great they are. They served the faculty quite well during this time,” said Berger. “Every time I asked them for suggestions for programming they jump forward and provide ideas.”

Both Fowler and Phelps took advantage of the training and courses provided by CTL and others on campus. As the challenges from the pandemic continue for everyone, faculty like Fowler and Phelps are committed to the success of their students and providing a dynamic learning environment.

“I'm really trying to focus on making sure what I'm doing is effective for students to learn,” said Fowler. “I think my new model is kind of a results-oriented process. It gets me away from lecturing, which is kind of naturally what you want to do, and it forces more engagement and interaction for me with the students and the students with each other.