Instructors preparing new course layouts for fall 2020 semester

With all fall courses online or hybrid, instructors at Wichita State University are rethinking their curriculum to serve students in a different format. 

WSU announced in May it plans to transfer all in-person courses to hybrid instruction for the fall 2020 semester. After Thanksgiving break, WSU will transfer all classes fully online to stop traveling students from potentially bringing COVID-19 on campus. 

Communications professor Eric Wilson has been at WSU for 11 years, with experience teaching both online and hybrid courses. For instructors who don’t usually teach online, Wilson recommended taking it one day at a time. 

“A lot of it is learning by doing,” Wilson said. “You have to teach online a bit before you feel comfortable.”

Wilson said professors can choose the hybrid course layout that’s best for them and their students.

The WSU Academics website lists at least three potential course layouts, including fully online instruction and limited in-person instruction with either virtual class sessions or independent online work.

“I’m just kind of examining the models right now; the university has been pretty communicative with us,” Wilson said. “I’ve just been trying to think through what would work well for my classes.” 

Wilson encouraged all professors to stay flexible and have an open mind as the semester approaches.

“What’s going to make it successful from a faculty standpoint is you just have to think differently,” Wilson said. “I think it’s good to be forced to think differently. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone and it also shows you that there’s more than one way to do things.”

While the hybrid or online format makes it seem difficult to connect with students, Wilson said instructors should aim to make their classes as personable as possible. 

“I try to send two to three emails per week to students with very detailed instructions, and students in my classes this spring said they really appreciated that,” Wilson said. “I try to also interject some fun. . . so it’s not just ‘do this, check that off’ type stuff.”

Political science chair Neal Allen said instructors should prepare for any type of teaching method.

“I’m trying to focus on student experience and serving students as best as possible,” Allen said. 

Likewise, both Allen and Wilson said students should prepare for any scenario, including potentially going completely online before Thanksgiving. 

“Part of that is that we don’t as an institution don’t have control over politics,” Allen said. “We are dependent upon decisions of governing authorities and individual students.”

Much like Wilson, Allen said his main focus this upcoming semester is to make sure he continues to develop relationships with his students, even if he has to do so online.

“I try to focus on the individual relationships I can build with students so I can help them figure out if there’s a path for them in a career,” Allen said. “So I’ve done the kind of work, really talking to students face-to-face, within, you know, two feet. . . so I have to figure out how to do that effectively over telephone and teleconferencing.”

Students can learn what instruction methods are planned for specific courses using a search tool on the WSU website.