Professor, students work together to solve online issues

Victoria Ellison, instructor of communication

Victoria Ellison, instructor of communication

Third in a series

Victoria Ellison’s communication class at Henderson State University was wrapping up 2½ weeks of work on a group project when classes went online March 13, preventing the final live presentation.

“This was a huge project for the class and presented a difficult decision about how to adapt under the current circumstances,” Ellison said. “I didn’t want to waste the work the students had put into the project, but also felt it would be really difficult for them to complete the project and presentation.”

Ellison posted a video explaining the situation and allowed the students to either finish the project or complete other assignments.

They chose to work on alternate assignments.

“The students seem to be doing OK, generally,” Ellison said. “I have given bonus points for them to check in with me about their situations. The majority of them are anxious about adapting to online learning and what it will mean for their grades.

“Their responses to this opportunity to talk about their fears has reminded me that our students are people first, who need our love and compassion.”

The students have been helping each other overcome some technical challenges.

“Many students were able to help each other find alternative ways to record and submit their final presentations,” Ellison said. “Some students had only cell phones, some didn’t even have internet, but we found ways around each hurdle together. It was really awesome to see my students finding ways to help and encourage one another.”

Technical issues have been Ellison’s most prevalent challenge.

“Restructuring the class wasn’t too difficult, but there have been a few technical issues,” she said. “The lack of internet and cell phone service that many of my students face has also been very challenging.

“I feel like much of my time has been spent helping walk students through possible solutions to those difficulties, and I have a whole new level of respect for our IT department.”

Ellison said she has been using TechSmith Relay, an educational video platform, to record lectures, example assignments, and walkthroughs of how students can record their presentations.

“Students usually go to the Communication Center to practice their final presentation and receive feedback to improve the presentation before delivering it class,” she said. “I adapted this assignment so that students completed it virtually. They submitted their recorded presentations to the Communication Center and received written feedback for improvement.

“I have also been using email, texting, and phone calls with students to help answer questions and other issues.”

Ellison has restructured the remainder of the semester and posted assignments, lectures, and activities on the Canvas platform.

Instead of a final exam, she has asked her students to contribute to a project they are calling “The Pandemic Time Capsule.” They will narrate a Powerpoint presentation of visuals they think represent what is occurring with COVID-19.

“Overall, my students have adjusted well,” Ellison said. “Even through mistakes and outright failures on my or their part, I hope they realize that the process they are going through right now, to adapt in a crunch, is a valuable life skill that will benefit them forever.”