ROBERT VANDERLAN: This has been a very stressful week. And when we do our outreach to departments, we lead with that. It's stressful for us-- we didn't ask for this. It's stressful for faculty-- you didn't ask for this. It's really stressful for students, whose whole lives are disrupted. But what's been inspiring is how many people have really just stepped up.
DOUG MCKEE: Online, we can replicate almost all of the best features of even a very interactive classroom.
ROBERT VANDERLAN: So here I am in a Zoom session. Obviously, there are no students in it, but you can see the controls along the bottom. First thing is I can share my screen and I can share specific things. So here, I'm going to share a PowerPoint-- actually, the PowerPoint that I was delivering earlier. We can use that to walk through slides. There's also the ability to put students in breakout rooms.
DOUG MCKEE: We're working with the Center for Teaching and Innovation to pre-assign the students to the same groups that they've been assigned to all semester. They break out into small versions of the same zoom conference room, but separate. So we'll have about 30 of these. And the interface is such that it's very easy for me to bounce between the groups and check in with them just as I would if I was in a classroom I would be walking around. Then I press a button, they all are pulled back into the main classroom. And then we can have a bigger group discussion about what they've talked through. And so those activities should transition fairly easily.
ROBERT VANDERLAN: THE faculty HAVE spent all semester building community in their face to face classroom, but we can't assume, especially after a break of a couple of weeks, that that will duplicate online. So creating opportunities for students to share a little bit about what they're going through, their personal experience, their circumstances, a picture of where they are or their pet or something like that can be just a nice way to recreate that community.
DOUG MCKEE: So there's all this talk about social distancing. And I think it would be better if we called it physical social distancing, because I think we need a lot of virtual social contact. And that's quite healthy and good. And we certainly have the tools right now to provide that.
ROBERT VANDERLAN: Nobody ever drew up a plan where they said, what would it be like if we moved the entire world online learning in two weeks? And nobody who has worked in online for a living would say that's a really great idea. But necessity is the mother of invention.
DOUG MCKEE: And I think a lot of faculty, this will be very eye-opening for them, and they'll teach much more hybrid classes. And they'll be much more-- their lecture classes will become much more flexible.
ROBERT VANDERLAN: It's inspiring to see how many people can do such great work so quickly, especially because large universities aren't known for being quick, nimble, and agile. And we can when we have to be.
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With support from Cornell staff, faculty are developing solutions that keep students connected to their coursework – and each other during the transition to online learning.