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Since the coronavirus caused the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to shift to online learning, each college has had to face different challenges. 

The Daily Nebraskan reached out to each college at UNL and compiled a list of the ways administrators and instructors are adapting to remote learning. Three colleges and the Office of Graduate Studies have yet to answer The Daily Nebraskan’s questions, and this article will be updated with their response when it is received.  

College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

To adapt to remote learning, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has developed learning opportunities aligned with course-specific and degree program learning outcomes, according to the college’s dean Tiffany Heng-Moss.

A Slack channel has been created for undergraduate CASNR students, and graduate students also have a platform to build community during social distancing, Heng-Moss said. Virtual office hours with the dean and the CASNR CARES team are available to students as well.

Since many CASNR classes rely on hands-on laboratories, some instructors are continuing plant growth experiments by providing videos and measurements, so students can see and analyze the data.

According to Heng-Moss, faculty have also shifted group field activities to individual outings for bird observations. Students can take walks or hikes near their homes and collect data from their own environments. 

“Although this is a new way of doing these exercises, many students are making interesting discoveries about their surroundings because of the new opportunities,” Heng-Moss said.

To avoid internet connection issues, assessments have been lengthened and exams that require the internet have been replaced with offline projects, Heng-Moss said. 

For all graduating seniors, the requirements to graduate remain the same.

College of Architecture

According to Katherine Ankerson, dean of the College of Architecture, the greatest challenge facing architecture students’ adjustment to remote learning is the hands-on nature of their courses.

Ankerson said that while the teaching style of the college has primarily relied on in-person instruction, professors are utilizing Canvas and Zoom to continue teaching, and she is confident that everyone in the college can successfully adjust. Additionally, on-site trips are being replaced by satellites, drones and geographic information systems to help students continue experiencing the sites remotely.

“If anyone can find a silver lining in this situation and triumph over adversity, find flexibility and grace in others and ourselves and discover tenacity and resilience, it is our students and faculty,” Ankerson said in an email.

College of Arts and Sciences

The biggest change for students in the College of Arts and Sciences is the ability to make a course pass/no pass instead of graded, according to Terri Pieper, director of Marketing and Communication in the College of Arts and Sciences

“Academic advisors are ready to help them with making that decision and then getting it changed in the system,” she said in an email.

Professors in the college have been using programs like Zoom and Outschool to stay connected with their students. Other professors are utilizing VidGrid and powerpoint slides with voice overs to continue teaching, according to Pieper.

The main point of contact for students is their CAS advisors, Pieper said.

“We feel it is most important that they hear directly from their academic advisors and instructors,” she said. “CAS academic advisors communicate with their assigned students frequently and our instructors are communicating directly with students through Canvas and email.”

For senior capstone projects, Pieper said transitioning to online wasn’t too challenging, and the most important part of the transition was making sure students stayed in contact with a faculty member for continued feedback. 

“For these kinds of courses, students have been working for some time on a project that is fairly independent, so remote learning lends itself well,” she said.

Overall, Pieper said CAS students have developed different ways to successfully transition to online learning.

“Some have created daily schedules to balance the new style of learning with assignments and tests,” she said. “Others have indicated they have had to work harder on their time management as due dates ‘creep up’ on them.”

College of Business

The College of Business is prioritizing asynchronous learning instead of synchronous learning by encouraging instructors to record lectures using tools like VidGrid and only host Zoom sessions for interactive content, according to assistant dean Tawnya Means. Means also said instructors have been rethinking assignments and assessments to make them easier for students to complete from afar. 

The college’s tutoring services out of the Teaching and Learning Center have also been moved online.

Means said graduation requirements have not been affected, although specific requirements for individual courses may be adapted. 

College of Education and Human Sciences

Much of the work in the College of Education and Human Sciences focuses on understanding the human condition, according to Haley Apel, director of strategic communications for the college.

Many practicum, student teaching and various internship and externship experiences were cut short due to the spread of the coronavirus. According to Apel, students are continuing their classes without those experiences by still thinking through lesson plans, despite no longer having patients or students to teach.

She said students in clinical training courses have moved to Simucase, a remote clinical instruction software where students can create lesson plans and develop treatment plans.

Faculty and staff in the college have also created “A Beautiful Day,” an interactive website focused on providing activities and creative videos for families to connect with at home, and the “Stronger Together” podcast, which features different aspects of family interaction with each episode, in order to help the community, according to Apel.

“We are bound and determined to obviously adjust to the times and support each other through this situation, but our mission has not changed,” Apel said. “We are bound and determined to continue in the delivery of that notion in whatever means that we can.”

College of Engineering

According to Lance Perez, dean of the College of Engineering, one of the biggest challenges facing engineering students during remote learning is completing labs virtually. However, he said the faculty has been innovative in working to provide content that students can successfully use from a distance.

Additionally, Perez said the College of Engineering began helping its students immediately after the university’s remote learning announcement by sending out a survey to gauge student needs. He also said the college has kept many of its support programs operational, such as the Engineering Study Stops for tutoring and remote course advising for planning future classes.

“We are prepared to connect students to just about any resource they could need, whether it’s more reliable internet access at home or [a] one-on-one with a staff member who can support them,” Perez said in an email.

Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts

Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts instructors have reached out to peers at other institutions to help adapt to remote learning. Additionally, Zoom and Canvas are used college-wide.

According to associate dean Christopher Marks, if students don't have access to the instruments needed for a course, the Glenn-Korff School of Music can loan and deliver them to students.

For all graduating seniors in the college, the graduation requirements have remained the same, Marks said. However, capstones have been adjusted so students can still fulfill the requirements. For example, many music students are recording recitals rather than performing them live, and some art students who would have exhibited their capstone work in a gallery are doing digital portfolios instead. 

College of Journalism and Mass Communications

By the end of February, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications had begun to make a plan for remote learning, according to interim dean Amy Struthers.

Struthers said many CoJMC classes were already online or had been at some point, so professors were able to assist each other with the switch. Struthers said Amy Ort, an instructional designer who specializes in designing distance learning courses, also met individually with faculty members.

By March 13, Struthers said the CoJMC was having weekly all-college meet-ups via Zoom to help with problem solving and share best practices, which they will continue through the end of the semester.

Struthers said she worked with the CoJMC leadership team to build a continuity plan to document everyone’s roles and how they can do their jobs effectively from a distance. 

Struthers said the two parts to the plan are the business continuity piece, which involves staff, and the academic continuity piece, which involves faculty.

Struthers said the staff members meet every morning via Zoom to discuss what they will be working on that day. 

For the academic plan, Struthers said a representative group of faculty meets with her, the associate dean, the academic advisers and the business and operations manager via Zoom. She said they discuss issues they are facing in regards to teaching, research and creative activity missions, and then they develop recommendations for solving the problems.

Struthers said the CoJMC’s two biggest challenges are hands-on skills classes, like videography or photography,and the many classes that focus on group work.

To keep in contact with students, Struthers said COJMC sends out regular emails three times a week just like they did before remote learning.

“We are incredibly proud of our students who have so much to handle in their lives right now, but who also won’t let a pandemic crush their dreams of a college degree,” Struthers said in an email. “Our staff and faculty are dedicated to our students’ success. And most of all, we want everyone to stay healthy and keep their loved ones safe.”

College of Law 

In an effort to transition to remote learning, classes in the College of Law are utilizing discussion boards, polls, VidGrid and live Zoom lectures, according to dean Richard Moberly. 

Usually, classes are a combination of doctrinal courses, which include reading and discussion, assimilation courses, where students learn and practice skills needed in a trial, seminars, composed of topical small group discussions, and clinical courses, where students get real-world experience representing clients. 

Moberly said it was challenging to convert the assimilation and clinical courses to online. The assimilation courses are utilizing the breakout room function on Zoom so teaching assistants and adjunct professors can watch groups perform.

Some of the clinical courses were an easy transition because the students have access to their client files from home, can Zoom with their supervisors and are able to talk to their clients over the phone, according to Moberly. 

The criminal clinic, however, usually accesses its client files at the County Attorney's office. Moberly said the caseload has slowed down due to the pandemic, so professors have assigned each student a felony case to research in an effort to give the students the same experience as before the pandemic. 

Moberly said the College of Law staff has reached out to each of its 400 students and hosted a town hall to answer students’ questions. 

“At each one of those interactions, I’ve told them, essentially, that we’re gonna be there for them, that we’re gonna work really hard to get them through this semester and to give them as good as an educational experience as we can through this remote learning,” he said. “In a lot of ways, it’s going to duplicate what they’ve received in the classroom.”

College of Nursing 

Ann Callies, academic success coach in student services for UNL’s College of Nursing, said representatives from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing’s five campuses meet regularly via Zoom, so they were fortunate to already have that in place. 

Callies said they’re all working remotely at home, and the office phones have been forwarded to home or cell phones. They are doing the same work they did while on campus, even if they aren’t seeing each other in person. 

Callies said many of the locations students went to for clinical experiences are now closed to students, as hospitals work to ensure they have enough personal protective equipment for their own staff members.

In response, Callies said the college’s faculty has been trying to create virtual clinical work for their students, but it’s been difficult.

“Nothing replaces that person-to-person interaction a student receives when working with a real human,” Callies said in an email.

Callies said the nursing graduation requirements haven’t changed since the students set to graduate next month have already completed their course work and are currently finishing their preceptorships, where they complete 180 hours in the field. 

Callies said the College of Nursing dean, campus administration and student services staff provide students with daily updates. She said their students have been understanding and have adapted as best they can.

“Going into the healthcare field, they are learning first-hand about pandemics and public health in a way we couldn’t have imagined a few months ago,” Callies said.

College of Public Affairs and Community Service

John Bartle, dean of the College of Public Affairs and Community Service, said students of the college, whose courses are administered by the University of Nebraska Omaha, face many of the same struggles as every other student, such as access to reliable internet and adjustments for remote learning. 

Bartle said the college reached out to all of its students to offer assistance with the transition and information regarding Zoom meetings with faculty. He also said the college has been informing students on the changed pass/no pass policy.

“Our advisors and staff have been working with true compassion for our students’ educational success but also mental well-being,” Bartle said.

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