April was to be the busiest month.
The Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia had prepared a packed calendar for this first spring with the Business Learning Community complete. Guest speakers and Employers of the Day were scheduled to dole out career advice (and sometimes chicken biscuits). Pitch competitions were on deck, study rooms were booked, and Honors Day was primed to fête some 70 students. Close to 9,000 Terry students had classes and recruiting events to attend, student organizations meetings to go to, and mentors to meet.
But none of that happened. What was to be a bustling campus was quieted by the coronavirus pandemic, the only movement coming from the flourishing flora in the bright spring sun. Instead, the purpose of the place — the mission to educate future business leaders — moved to living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms in the homes of Terry students, faculty and staff at all points of Athens, the state of Georgia and beyond.
“The Terry College strives to provide students with the best possible education to prepare our graduates to lead in their professions and serve in their communities, and that mission doesn’t change,” said Terry Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “We were in an environment where we had to transition to remote instruction in a short time, and we had much to accomplish in an adverse situation. Like many businesses navigating the pandemic, we made a quick pivot to continue serving our community. Different method, same mission. We focused on two priorities — the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and larger community, and our mission — which helped foster unity and clarity during a challenging time.”
Since March 30, when Terry joined the campus community in moving all courses to online instruction, much was accomplished to make the school year’s final month as seamless as possible.
It hasn’t been without glitches, and it revealed the disparate access to Internet and technology imperfections, which occurs when the college population is located all over the map. But with online instruction slated for summer classes as well, the process has been pretty smooth for such a large undertaking.
“It’s been positive; Terry has done a good job with the cards it’s been dealt,” said Emily Bauer, a fourth-year student double majoring in finance and risk management. “It’s not a situation anyone wanted to happen, and I think everybody at Terry would rather be there in person. But it hasn’t been a disadvantage at all, everyone has been open and willing to work with you.”
While Terry’s Office of Information Technology gave faculty guidance for online instruction and working from home, the college’s academic advisors were at the forefront. Spring is a busy time for advisors as students register for fall and clear up schedules for summer, and having all advising appointments handled remotely is no easy feat.
With students shoring up their future academic plans, faculty worked through what to do about planning their academic present. Beyond the concept of leading an online lecture and working through a multitude of Zoom options, there were considerations on what to do about online quizzes and exams, uploading video, and finding additional tools through eLearning Commons.
“We took a step back and looked at all the options available for online delivery, looking at the constraints and figuring out what the best thing is for the students,” said Henry Munneke, associate dean for undergraduate programs and the Roy Adams Dorsey Distinguished Chair in Real Estate. “The easiest thing would be to do synchronous lectures, where everybody shows up to class at the same time. But the fear was students lived in places where they wouldn’t be able to do it, or lived in apartment buildings that would overrun the network at certain times because synchronous means students are required to be there at that time.”
Munneke, who taught three real estate courses in the spring, had to alter the tempo of his lectures because they rely on students asking questions he answers during class. “When you’re doing lectures asynchronously, you have to think of the questions your students asked in the past and incorporate those into a lecture in an interesting way. In a classroom, it’s usually a back-and-forth conversation, and that’s lost. You have to find ways to replace that.”
Bauer watched as professors found fresh ways to solve these problems. Her classes were uploaded recorded lectures where she watched and absorbed lessons at her own pace. But to get questions answered, one of her classes created a discussion forum in eLC where posted queries awaited her professor’s response.
“The professor was good at answering them quickly,” she said. “I could go there if I have a question and see if it’s already answered. It also gives a place for students to collaborate, interact and learn. It’s something we hadn’t used before. Hopefully, they can use this in the future to go along with in-class learning. If you’re working on something late at night and it’s not an appropriate time to email a professor, it’s a great way to connect.”
Munneke heard from professors that using the new set of tools enhanced their teaching.
“Jeff Netter [head of the department of finance] quoted himself that he will be a better teacher moving forward because it made him look at other tools to use with students.”
Munneke said, “I thought it was interesting he said he’ll be a better professor. That’s a strong statement, he’s a really good teacher already.”
Read more about Terry’s transition to online learning.