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As teaching and learning continue to evolve amid the coronavirus pandemic – with the increased use of digital tools and platforms for online education – how, where and when we learn looks more and more different than it did just a year ago.

That’s why the College of Charleston hosted an information session on Jan. 14, 2021, about the different teaching and learning modalities available at CofC. The virtual event featured a panel of faculty members who have experience teaching courses both in person and online. Those faculty included Mark Del Mastro, associate provost for academic and international programs; Beth Goodier, associate professor of communication; Anthony Greene, associate professor of African American studies; Silvia Rodriguez Sabater, associate professor of Hispanic studies and faculty coordinator of online education; and Heath Hoffmann, professor of sociology and anthropology.

Suzanne Austin, provost and executive vice president for the Division of Academic Affairs, praised faculty and students for pivoting in their approaches to teaching and learning and their efforts to move forward in the midst of so much change.

“First, I want to acknowledge all of the challenges during fall semester 2020, and I want to thank everyone – students, parents, faculty members and staff – for their hard work and perseverance under very challenging circumstances,” said Austin, noting that grades for the fall semester were strong and, on average, higher than the three previous fall semesters. “As a result of all that hard work and dedication, our students and faculty members have adapted well.”

The four teaching and learning formats offered at CofC for the spring 2021 semester include:

  • In person, where all students and faculty are in a classroom simultaneously
  • Hybrid format, where some portion of the class attends in person and another portion attends remotely, alternating virtual and in-person attendance throughout the semester
  • Online synchronous instruction, where all students and faculty meet online at a time scheduled for the class
  • Online asynchronous instruction, where the faculty member creates the course content using online materials and platforms, and students can access the course lessons, materials and activities at their convenience via online platforms

During the panel discussion, faculty explored the differences between each type of class format, how they approach teaching each style of class and, depending on the modality of the class, steps students can take to be successful.

The faculty panel’s main advice for students, particularly those taking online courses, is to participate in class – specifically to engage in discussions and activities and do assignments. Their other message: Students should be proactive to seek help if they have questions about the course material or are having trouble using the technology to participate in class.

“It’s really the student’s responsibility to reach out to us when they have questions about the material,” said Hoffmann. “I need you to contact me, and that way I can better assist you.”