Associate Teaching Professor Annette Moore transitioned two courses online this spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many NC State faculty members, Moore had to learn new skills and tailor her teaching to be effective at a distance. While the semester brought many unexpected changes, Moore can look back pleased with what she and her students accomplished.
“I wanted to walk through this experience with my students in a way that enabled us all to learn and grow,” says Moore.
The DELTA Faculty Fellow is sharing what she did to make the switch a success.
The transition prompted Moore to reflect on the goals of her courses and what she values as an instructor. How could she help her students through these changes? Did she want to evaluate learning or inspire it? Questions like these guided Moore to think and teach creatively during the uncertain times.
“We have course objectives and outcomes that we need to meet, but we need to make sure that they’re relevant. Whatever I teach really needs to be relevant to the students and to life,” she says.
Before NC State’s campus closed in March, both of Moore’s courses relied on face-to-face collaboration between her and students. She had to find ways to maintain this asset online. Originally a blended course, PRT 152: Introduction to Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management began meeting on Zoom once a week, which garnered positive feedback from students. Moore made sure that any time spent as a class was highly interactive and engaging.
With Zoom, Moore held the class’s highly anticipated alumni panel presentation. Recreation professionals from local organizations were eager to share their perspectives and experiences before and after nationwide closures took place this spring. Moore says that everyone in attendance benefitted, including the guests, who gained valuable insights and inspiration.
Moore’s other course, PRT 358: Recreation Program Planning, is a full-immersion service-learning course. The class seeks to give students hands-on experience in program planning by partnering with community agencies. Only two of seven groups were able to complete and present the required two programs before campus closed. While those groups were able to work closely with their supervisors at local facilities, the rest had to deliver virtual programs and meet with their supervisors remotely. Moore says these students addressed the challenge fearlessly, resulting in high-quality, engaging and timely virtual events.
One group partnered with NC State Wellness and Recreation, originally planning to hold a trivia night at the 1887 Bistro in Talley Student Union. They moved the event to Zoom with a great response from participants. Another group partnered with Magnolia Glen Senior Living Community in Raleigh. They delivered a month-long remote puzzle, with a new answer revealed and a new clue provided each day. The team also solicited short videos of encouragement from volunteers in both of Moore’s courses to share with senior residents under lockdown. After the programs were complete, the students urged Moore to always require a virtual program in the future, feeling it would be a valuable learning experience for students in future semesters.
Over a semester of teamwork and adaptation, many of the project groups in PRT 358 became close. Moore continued holding weekly Zoom calls to maintain these relationships as a class.
“[Students] said it was life-giving to be able to still meet as a class, still meet in their lab groups, connect with their supervisors but also be able to create something that could be delivered to the community. They felt like they weren’t helpless — like they had some way to respond to this pandemic, they had some way to invest in the community, even if they had gone home.”
After receiving word in March that campus would remain closed through final exams, Moore quickly chose to replace her tests with alternative assignments. With practical classes focused on leisure, events, and relationships, Moore was able to brainstorm meaningful assignments that she, her students and their families benefited from at home.
Moore gave students in PRT 152 two assignments. The first was a reflection paper encouraging students to process their personal experiences during the stay-at-home orders. She urged them to think about the role of leisure in their lives before and after COVID-19, to consider what lessons they have learned from this time period, and to identify what changes they want to keep a part of them long-term.
Moore also challenged students in PRT 152 to expand their leisure repertoire, or the activities they find most comfortable and enjoyable. They were tasked with doing an activity different from what they normally do and creating a video to showcase it and its benefits.
The students certainly delivered. During the last week of the semester, Moore’s class enjoyed watching their peers learn how to cook, bake with family members, do arts and crafts and blow balloon animals. Moore chose to grow seedlings to plant in her garden. The project allowed students to relax, rekindle interests and come together with their families.
Moore plans to keep both of these assignments in future sections of the course, regardless of where and how students take it.
Tools and Techniques
Moore says that getting online challenged her initial expectations. She had an academic continuity plan in place, but the reality of putting it to action was daunting, causing her to pause and ask herself, “How do I do this?”
Support from her peers in the College of Natural Resources helped her become familiar with Zoom. Robert Bardon, associate dean of Extension and Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources extension leader, offered short trainings to walk through Zoom’s basic features before students returned to class in mid-March. She said learning the tool in small groups of colleagues was extremely helpful, and she walked away confident knowing that Zoom was in her arsenal.
Moore had prior training from DELTA in tools like Top Hat and PlayPosit, which felt comforting ahead of the transition. Her background helped her develop a unique combination of instructional tools for getting lectures online quickly. Moore started by creating presentations in Top Hat, narrating and recording them in Zoom, and finally editing them for length and engagement in PlayPosit. This strategy demonstrates the versatility of DELTA-supported learning technologies and the different approaches instructors can take to make them their own.
Inspired by the Course Quality Program at NC State, Moore kept quality in mind throughout the transition. She had previously attended Applying the Quality Matters Rubric, a one-day workshop to help instructors get started on various course quality pathways.
“That helped me to think through what’s really important. I felt like I had an idea of what needed to happen and what would be helpful for students from the online learning perspective.”
Moore also consulted Michael Kanters, Interim Department Head in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management who recently received Quality Matters Course Certification for his online course. He shared the course with Moore earlier in the semester, and she followed his example to enhance her own Moodle courses, asking herself “What can I see there that will help me give my students a better experience really quickly?” She says that even though it wasn’t perfect, she feels her students will benefit from increased transparency and accessibility when completing assignments.
Looking ahead, Moore feels ready to get online again if necessary. Her advice to others? Connect with students and ask for feedback.
“The students were very willing to share their perspectives. I want to take to heart the recommendations that the students have made especially because of their experience in this sudden transition. I’m so grateful that they walked with me and each other throughout the end of this semester and that their hearts were just to help me make my classes as good as they can be in the future.”