Facilitating Teaching and Learning in a COVID-19 Environment

A coffee mug sitting next to a laptop, during a Zoom meeting

By Katie Chappell. Transitioning thousands of courses to a virtual format is no small task, and just as other institutions of higher education around the world, the faculty of UCI faced the enormous task with just a few days to prepare.

Multiple teams in the Office of Information Technology (OIT) spun into action to support the faculty’s transition to teaching in a virtual environment. These OIT groups anticipated needs for exam administration, lecture capture, and class discussions – and responded by acquiring new and expanded tools, developing training resources and increasing support capacity.

“During a turbulent transitional time for instructors, OIT has consistently provided outstanding service for continuing effective course facilitation,” said Matthew Mahavongtrakul, Postdoctoral Scholar in the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation. “From making classroom space available to providing Zoom licenses and support, I’ve been able to move my course remotely with minimal disruption.”

OIT staff secured 1,250 laptops for students and employees before vendors were overwhelmed by requests, enabling the campus to quickly get them into the hands of those who needed them most before the spring quarter began.

In time for Winter finals, Respondus Lockdown Browser + Monitor were implemented as optional tools for instructors who wanted their online exams proctored remotely.

Supporting Instruction with Video Tools

As Zoom use increased following an enterprise-wide license being delivered to campus, teams in Classroom Technology Services and Information Security worked together to create user guides for safe, secure and private Zoom meetings, webinars, and class lectures. Support documentation for Yuja, the Canvas integrated media management tool that UCI has made available to faculty for lecture capture, was increased.

“I’ve been very impressed by OIT Classroom Technology’s ability to respond quickly to my sudden need to teach remotely in Spring,” said Adrienne Williams, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Developmental and Cell Biology. “Much of this was because this group had put in a great deal of work over the past few years to have strong video systems in place that were easy to use and worked well with Canvas. When I needed to make a Yuja welcome video for my students, I was able to figure out the tools and make the recording quickly…Because I’ve used UCI’s Zoom several times in the past year for research collaboration, it was easy to pivot to using it for teaching.”

Transitioning Courses Online

Anticipating the needs of faculty for increased assistance with the learning management system, Canvas, the Academic Web Technologies team secured a support contract with Instructure to ensure increased capacity and elevated support by the team for escalated issues. They also created a series of webinars and help documentation for faculty to transition to Canvas for the first time or deepen their understanding to utilize Canvas features to their fullest extent.

Larry Cahill, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, was one of the dozens of faculty who attended OIT’s Canvas webinars in March and shared his appreciation. “The OIT staff was very efficient in helping me address a number of problems that arose during my quick transition to Canvas.”Learn more about how OIT is facilitating online and mixed-mode instruction courses at UCI Teach Anywhere, and UCI TechPrep.

This article originally appeared in UCI OIT Home Page News, June 5, 2020, and is re-posted with permission in the UC IT Blog.

Katie Chappell is manager of Communications and Training, Office of Information Technology, UC Irvine.Katie Chappell is manager, Communications and Training, Office of Information Technology, UC Irvine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.