Online Learning Support

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I would like to write a short note thanking everyone for their work in helping us respond to this very difficult challenge of shifting our instructional program and courses online.  This effort an enormous challenge, but it is gratifying to see how so many are rising to the challenge and bringing creativity and goodwill to helping us together learn how we can continue to offer our courses in this new regime. I also want to thank the many faculty for the excellent comments and questions during our four faculty training sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Barbara and Sophia are gathering the detailed technical questions for a FAQ sheet that will answer all of the technical questions. Esther Chang is also gathering ideas about how we can make best use of the online environment and to share faculty ideas, tips and tricks as well as suggestions on how we can improve our faculty support. You can contribute ideas and questions at https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/home/15363.

We will also need to answer some of the bigger questions about how best to offer our online courses now that our students will be dispersed across the world. The exact answers to this question will be something we all have to work on together, and we will all learn as a community as we together enable our students to continue their courses despite the difficulties of having their semester disrupted. We all can contribute to this process, and so please do share ideas and support for each other, and also please provide support for our students, who are facing a lot of uncertainty and stress. A kind message from their faculty members will help them a lot in this time so please do communicate to your classes with a reassuring statement about how you will proceed with the online course. 

I wanted to provide a few guidelines and basic answers for our online teaching as we move forward after Spring Break, based some of the questions in our training sessions.  Our goal throughout this process will be to preserve a high quality of instruction, preserving as much interaction as possible as we move online. This will require us to handle the challenges of having students in many timezones, as well as to manage advising capstones with students, and also structuring exams. 

Preserving Interactive and High Quality Instruction.  We would like to have faculty use their existing scheduled class times with interactive (synchronous) classes as much as possible during this period. This is important for students so they can regain a sense of structure and benefit from the social and intellectual interactions from these classes. During our training sessions, we were able to see how Zoom can be used to preserve a very interactive and engaging class with students through videoconferencing. Some of the tools such as sharing screens (which you or students can do during a talk), breakout rooms (which allows for small group discussions) and a whiteboard (for drawing equations or pictures) can all be helpful. Barbara and Sophia can help you learn how to teach with Zoom, and we encourage you to experiment with each other and with IT to help learn these systems. More information on this can be found on the online teaching site at https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching/.

Handling Different Timezones and Variable Internet.  As much as we would like to preserve the small and interactive classes from our in-person format, with students dispersed all over the world, some students will not be able to make our scheduled times to join our live classes. Zoom has a record feature that will allow class to be recorded and these students can then watch the class on their own at a more convenient time. Some other students may have intermittent internet access, and I have emailed all students to let them know if they do not have access to internet, SUA can support the costs for internet access so they can participate fully in the online courses.  Faculty should be sensitive to students who are unable to make the class time or who have technical issues, and provide opportunities to ask questions via online office hours, to be able to ask questions through email or within the Brightspace environment. Creative use of an online forum, and other asynchronous discussions within class can enable students who were not present in class to still contribute to discussions. We welcome your ideas and so please contribute to the online discussion site at

 https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/le/15363/discussions/List.

Academic Calendar. Considering the enormous disruption to our students, we would like to extend some of our academic deadlines this semester. We would like to extend the Capstone Deadline from its current deadline of April 24 to May 15. Capstone grades would be due on May 27 at the latest to allow for grade audits to be completed for seniors.  Since all of our students are dealing with enormous challenges in adapting to this new learning environment, faculty should be sensitive to other requests for modified deadlines in other courses, and try to help our students complete their studies with reasonable accommodations. This should also include allowing seniors to have at least until March 27 before requiring drafts of capstones. 

Exams.  Students will be able to upload work into Brightspace or email assignments to you, but taking exams may be challenging. It will be hard to not have open-book exams in this environment, and students will have to be asked to cooperate with something of an honors policy.  Some faculty have been interested in finding ways to provide secure online exams, and the suggestion was made to use a “lock-down browser” which offers this feature (https://web.respondus.com/he/lockdownbrowser/). More information on this can be found on the Online Resource for faculty page at

 https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/le/15363/discussions/topics/21943/View

We welcome additional ideas and IT is able to support faculty who want to use this technology. 
Resources. As mentioned in earlier emails – we have a few websites available for you to find tips and have discussions with your colleagues to help us all manage this transition. Below are a few of our resources available as well as contact information for our IT team, Sophia and Barbara, who are eager to help with any technical issues. John Min from IT is also willing to help faculty acquire any needed hardware – a loaner laptop, videocamera, microphone, or support for using one of our SUA classrooms for your online class. Please do make use of these resources and feel free to contact them if you need any more support. 

Online Resources

  • Online Resources and Tools for Faculty (Brightspace) https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/home/15363 – managed by Esther Chang and has a lively online forum, and lots of other resources contributed by faculty. 
  • Online Teaching site (website) https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching/ – Managed by the Dean’s Office and has updates to news and other announcements – and includes training videos and materials and some contributed materials from faculty.

Important Contacts

  • Sophia Kawada – phone: (949) 480-4229 email: skawada@soka.edu
  • Additional support can be received using the IT helpdesk phone number, which is (949) 480-4357.  

Best wishes,
Bryan


Dear Faculty Colleagues, 

As mentioned in Ed Feasel’s community letter, we are going to transition our instruction to online only after Spring Break and remain with online teaching until April 3.  This is a very difficult choice for us – but we are working to assure the safety of our students, staff and faculty, and as many of our peer institutions are doing, we are responding proactively to reduce the possibility of infection to our campus community rather than waiting for infections to appear and risk a larger outbreak. This situation will require us to all work together to help us provide continuity of our classes to our students.  To help faculty with the transition, we plan to use the rest of this week to provide information and training to faculty to enable you to be able to provide your courses online with the least disruption possible. The Dean’s office has been working closely with IT to set up training sessions for faculty to learn about how to teach online.  We have three different options already available to us which can support classes and which can provide a very interactive learning environment.  Below is a brief overview of each option with some links for more information.  

Zoom – a very versatile videoconferencing software which many are already using. Students only need a link to click into a class and it will support live videoconferencing with your entire class, as well as screen sharing (for slides), screen annotation, and also even supports breakout groups.  This is our preferred platform as it offers the greatest ease of use. It can be used in a standalone mode as a videoconferencing program, and also has been integrated into Brightspace. The IT team will be training faculty in using both modes during our sessions this week. 

Zoom within Brightspace / Virtual Classroom – The Brightspace platform has extra features that allow you to have online videoconferencing and to schedule other kinds of meetings and interactive instruction with your students.  Zoom has been integrated within Brightspace, and the IT staff have created a manual for training faculty in creating online videoconference sessions within Brightspace. Since all of us have our classes already set up in Brightspace, this offers some benefits in convenience over standalone Zoom usage since meetings with the class are easier to set up.  Here is a link for additional information:

Microsoft Teams – a Microsoft product that allows for instant communication with groups of students, video chat, and online forum type discussions among groups of students. This platform has been used with our Study Abroad students, and an increasing number of students and some faculty are gaining experience with the program. Here are some links for additional information: 

Since classes are cancelled for the rest of the week, we can use this week to prepare and provide training for faculty. We are working closely with IT to provide training sessions for faculty for the rest of this week, as well as to provide any needed computer or webcam hardware to help faculty offer their classes online.  Barbara McGrath and Sophia Kawada from IT will be the point people from IT available to support faculty. They will be available by email at bmcgrath@soka.edu and skawada@soka.edu and faculty can also call the IT Helpdesk – which will prioritise calls from faculty and route them to full-time staff. This number is (949) 480-4357. Our first training sessions will begin on Wednesday at 10:00AM, and will offer a chance to answer your questions, and to train you to set up your class using the Zoom and Zoom within Brightspace. Since classes are cancelled this week, this is a good opportunity for learning how to manage the transition to online teaching. Faculty are encouraged to attend either in person or via online using Zoom (links for remote attendees included below).

  • Wednesday 10:00AM at Maathai 207 – link for remote attendees: https://zoom.us/j/886117961 (click to join) or use meeting number 886 117 961
  • Wednesday 1:00PM at Maathai 207  – link for remote attendees: https://zoom.us/j/272487161 (click to join) or use meeting number 272 487 161
  • Thursday 10:00AM at Maathai 207 – link for remote attendees: https://zoom.us/j/143484736 (click to join) or use meeting number 143 484 736
  • Thursday 1:00PM at Maathai 207 – link for remote attendees: https://zoom.us/j/177696772 (click to join) or use meeting number 177 696 772

Please RSVP for these training sessions at the survey link (which also asks about your tech support needs and preferences for online teaching): https://soka.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_b7XLZJupVxjikGF 

In addition, we will be placing training materials online at our website which we have created for this purpose. This site will be available here: https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching (and is just being set up). This website will be updated with more information on online teaching – including links to training materials for our three platforms for online teaching. Also our IT team will be available for additional one on one consultations.  The Library/IT committee is managing a Brightspace Forum for faculty to share tips and answer questions about the online learning process. All of our faculty have been made instructors on this site – and it is a great place for sharing resources and ideas to help us with this process of learning about online teaching.  This site is available here: https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/home/15363

This site will have a Forum where faculty can share tips, answer questions and share ideas. If you have any additional questions on the Forum, or suggestions for other needed types of faculty support, you can contact Esther Chang, chair of the Library/IT committee. She can be reached at echang@soka.edu

Finally – we would like to hear from you if you have any ideas or additional support needs. Please respond to the survey link below, which will ask you about whether you have sufficient computer hardware and bandwidth to offer your course online, and if not – which type of equipment you may need. IT has a number of modern loaner laptops with video capability available for check-out, as well as microphones and webcams. Please also indicate any additional hardware needs you might have on this form and we will do everything we can to help support your online teaching.  

The survey is available here (please respond): https://soka.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_b7XLZJupVxjikGF 

Thanks for everyone’s help and patience as we work to respond to this situation. If you have any additional questions or concerns please do let me know and I will work with IT and our staff to help provide whatever support you may need and help to answer some of your questions.  

Best wishes, 

Bryan Penprase

Dean of Faculty