As preventive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 are being implemented, faculty and staff in universities and schools across the globe are exploring alternative ways to make students’ back-to-school experience as engaging and fulfilling as possible.
With this in mind, VCUarts Qatar recently launched Teach Lab, a curated online website resource to help university faculty make their online/virtual classes in the fall semester appealing – and effective – for both returning students and new cohorts.
The site offers helpful content and teaching resources related to most aspects of remote/hybrid instruction, including online teaching resources, discipline specific tools, student engagement strategies, instructional technology and a discussion board where faculty can post queries, feedback and suggestions.
The platform was conceived, developed and launched by Patty Paine, Director, Liberal Arts and Sciences, VCUarts Qatar, along with other faculty and staff drawn from various departments including Aissa Deebi, Christopher Fink, Diane Derr, Radha Dalal, Mohammad Suleiman, Law Alsobrook, Summer Bateiha, and Mona Kassem.
Paine noted how the idea for the site evolved as a result of the sudden transition from on-campus to online learning in March this year.
“As faculty, the notion of online education wasn’t completely new to us; but the speed with which we had to cross over from on-campus to online, was challenging!” Paine said. “After completing the academic year in April, we knew we would need to be a lot more prepared when university reopens after the summer break.”
Paine says the faculty utilized the summer months to research and collate resources, and develop a pop-up website exclusively for this purpose.
“During the transition phase, we discovered that the amount of web-based information related to online teaching, was staggering, as faculty and teachers across the world were posting their experiences online,” Paine said. “We knew we would have to whittle it down to what was most relevant and useful to our faculty, and applicable to our core subjects, which are art and design.
“For more than a month, our team read, sifted, and chose the information we felt would be useful from a teaching perspective. And, as this transition is as much a learning experience for us as it is for students, we felt that the site ought to be an interactive platform where a faculty member could post a query, and would receive suggestions and tips, back. This would allow us to learn from each other, and improve and adapt our techniques as we progress across the semester.”
The site – which can be visited at https://www.teachlab.info/ - is up and running, and being accessed by instructors searching for tried-and-tested tips to plan their online modules for the fall semester.