Rapid Transition to Online Learning a Great Success

By | March 29, 2020

Daemen College has successfully completed its first week of fully online classes, a monumental transition achieved in less than a week through a college-wide effort following the decision to move to remote learning on March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In making this quick transition, our main goal was to provide our students a high-quality education in a remote learning environment that will enable them to complete the spring semester,” said Brogan. “While we understand there will be challenges along the way with this transition, our faculty and staff are working tirelessly to support our commitment to our students, and we remain steadfast in our academic mission and keeping our students on track in their Daemen education.”

Brogan added, “For all of this to happen in a matter of days took an entire team with an unyielding dedication to our students and the curriculum, strong communications, and keen insight and collaboration from faculty.”

With the coronavirus pandemic rapidly evolving, Brogan and Dr. Greg Ford, president of the Faculty Senate, discussed in early March the urgency to prepare and plan for moving in-person classes to remote learning. Faculty fully supported developing a strategy for online instruction and the formation of a comprehensive Remote Learning Task Force, which convened for the first time on March 9.

“The task force was comprised of talented faculty, staff, and administrators from across the college to develop the framework for remote learning that could be built quickly and efficiently while maintaining the academic integrity of the curriculum,” said Brogan.

At the task force’s second meeting on March 11, the group planned for training, resources, and other key components to move to remote instruction. The following day, on March 12, Daemen President Gary Olson announced the college was transitioning all classes to an online format, a decision prompted by the fluidity of the coronavirus crisis.

In his letter to the campus community, Olson said, “We feel the best course of action is to extend spring break by one week through March 20, and then on Monday, March 23 we will begin instruction online for the foreseeable future. During this extended spring break, Daemen faculty will transition their coursework to an online format.”

For Daemen, this was an unparalleled undertaking. “In a matter of four days, we went from a perceived possibility to an absolute necessity of moving from in-person to remote learning,” said Brogan. “None of this would have been possible without the enormous commitment and effort of numerous people at the college in administration and colleagues from a wide range of academic departments and institution divisions.”

Full-time and part-time faculty wholeheartedly embraced making the change from in-person to online classes. Recognizing the immediacy of the situation, faculty response was tremendous from across academic disciplines, resulting in nearly 95 faculty participating in workshops and webinars to learn about remote teaching, with many attending more than one training session. Faculty also prepared by taking on greater use of Blackboard and other tools, such as web conferencing with Zoom and Google Hangouts, and tapping into a number of online resources made available to them.

“The collegiality, collaboration, and dedication of faculty was truly heartwarming,” noted Brogan.

Daemen Information Technology has been at the forefront of making the major conversion to online classes, including overseeing a number of workshops and webinars, developing academic content for faculty and students, and the creation of a Remote Learning website for faculty as part of the college’s larger COVID-19 site. IT staff have also been reassigned to assist with online help desk support, which will continue for the foreseeable future.

“IT is working to help ensure business and learning continuity at the college by supporting critical infrastructure for remote teaching, learning, and college operations,” said Melaine Kenyon, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “Our instructional designers mobilized quickly to train and prepare faculty to shift courses to an online presence, and our entire IT team pulled together to make sure the resources and support are in place to make online instruction successful at Daemen.”

Remarkably, during the first week of online instruction, there were 411 new Zoom users, 635 tests taken using Respondus, and the average page view on Blackboard increased an incredible 63 percent from late February to the first week of remote learning.

“We are fortunate to have exceptional instruction designers like Peter Schilke and Eric Hill, who took on the enormous task of providing numerous training sessions on remote teaching and continue to provide valuable support to faculty in online instruction,” said Kenyon.

Without question, Daemen’s response to moving to all online instruction is a credit to the college working together as a whole, institutional solidarity, and the full engagement of every college unit to make this impressive transition a success for faculty and students.

“I am proud to say that I have not received one negative comment or complaint about the move to remote learning,” said Brogan. “Given the enormity of this undertaking, it is inspiring to have received numerous complimentary notes about the collaborative effort of the college, our concern and dedication to our students, and the great attention to faculty needs. I commend everyone who has been involved in making this unprecedented initiative happen at Daemen.”