Each semester, professors and educators are challenged to innovate and utilize new teaching methods to help improve the student experience. This is a more pressing concern than ever before in light of COVID-19. However, many have stepped up to the challenge. Marketing department faculty member Dr. Jamie Grigsby was recently awarded a Curriculum Innovation Mini-Grant from Missouri State to help implement changes that will allow her to use emerging technologies to improve classroom engagement.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching methods have been dramatically shifted from how they were in the past. With reduced classroom capacities and social distancing measures in place, faculty members are challenged with adapting to the new norm. “I usually teach classes that are either 100% face-to-face or 100% online,” says Grigsby. “Now, my classes are sort of a hybrid of both.” This shift towards a hybrid learning environment has driven a large push for educators to give students the flexibility to attend class in person or virtually through the use of alternative teaching methods.
While she has used several approaches to improve the remote learning experience, Grigsby has noticed a shift in how her students are doing in her Social Media Analytics and Creative Advertising courses. “A lot has changed and still feels disrupted… I think students are working hard to stay on top of everything, but the challenge of doing that has definitely increased.” She goes on to say that this new environment has been particularly difficult for students who enjoy the structure of face-to-face classes. Although she has offered several alternatives, including recorded lectures and virtual office hours, the decreased shared class time has made students feel more isolated, leading to more students struggling overall. Noticing this problem, Grigsby began to investigate further in order to find a solution.
In discussions with students, Dr. Grigsby found that they preferred having the ability to attend a virtual lecture livestream rather than watching prerecorded lecture videos. “I think part of that is the added structure,” says Grigsby. “The students who need to stay home can still join class at the set class time with all their classmates.” These perspectives were echoed by other marketing department faculty members, some of whom were experimenting with using programs such as Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate to livestream their lectures to students. With this feedback, Grigsby considered her options and decided that she would put together a classroom setup that would allow her to capture the entire classroom and livestream it over Zoom. This would then allow students to attend class virtually and be stay actively engaged in the discussions. Grigsby was prepared and ready to put her plans into action.
Dr. Grigsby soon discovered the Curriculum Innovation Mini-Grant offered by Missouri State University. The purpose of the grant is to provide funding worth up to $1,200 to improve student learning through valuable resource acquisitions and instructional tools. Limited funding is available each fiscal year, so applicants must give strong arguments as to why they should receive funding. Grigsby presented her plans, reinforced by first-hand student feedback and colleague support, and was ultimately awarded a mini-grant worth $1,200 that would be used to implement her plans.
Dr. Grigsby’s plans will be implemented in the upcoming spring 2021 semester. Missouri State is currently working on building a virtual classroom that is optimized for Zoom streaming. Grigsby will use the classroom for one of her one of her courses with potential to host more in the facility in future semesters. Grigsby is excited for the opportunity to improve her students’ learning experience, saying her plan is a step towards “a good way to make it work!”