Dinosaur No More

I once considered myself, and gloriously upheld the title, a self-proclaimed “dinosaur” of online instruction. I am a Professor of Social Work. I teach practice classes. I held firm in the belief that there was no need to use MSUM’s online teaching platform. I had everything I needed: textbooks and empirical knowledge, practice wisdom, great classroom environments, and excited and brilliant students. It was a professor’s dream! What more could I ask for, and why would I consider doing something so radically “unnecessary”?!

However, throughout the years and swiftly evolving technology, I began to make a shift. Maybe it was guilt or personal dissonance challenging my creative juices and self-inflicted status quo. I felt a sense of responsibility to respond to the student demographic of the 21st century, which honestly, in my classroom manifested the most with increased student requests for “dropboxes” for their papers (Umm…drop what? No, I don’t do those…)

Thus, I began my journey to online/hybrid/hyflex instruction. First, only by adding online supplements to my courses: create a gradebook, add an assignment (with a dropbox!), develop an exam, etc. However, the more I incorporated, the more the students responded. It made me a better instructor and communicator. It gave them new, modern ways to learn and engage each other through peer review and recorded skills sessions. They kept track of their grades in real time. My instruction goals and commitment to the needs of my students have brought me a long way. It wasn’t without fear but it was with intention.

Fast forward to March 2020, when all education went “online.” Because of the hybrid and hyflex technology, I completed my courses with all the rigor of the on-site classes I had taught for almost two decades. No, it wasn’t the same, but it was significant in ways in which I wouldn’t have conceived. I can’t imagine how we could have committed to our student teaching and learning without the hybrid and hyflex infrastructure and capacities MSUM has invested in.

With MSUM’s Office of Online Learning’s support, I have successfully transformed three of my classes into hybrid courses. Using D2L, Zoom, Kaltura MediaSpace, and TEAMS, combined with hyflex classrooms’ technology, has made all the difference. Students can attend my classes from anywhere. I use D2L and TEAMS platforms to help manage our capstone field experiences. I can teach from anywhere. Not only have I seamlessly and flexibly met the diverse needs of my students during this pandemic, I have also maintained relationships and, in new ways, advanced rigor. Students attend my classes on-site or via Zoom in the classroom whether the obstacle for on-campus presence is COVID-related or other life issues. More importantly, they advance their practice skills while using the technology that has also changed their chosen profession, making them more marketable as entry-level practitioners who will undoubtedly need to master telepresence practice.

I will always love the live classroom environment more than anything. However, I will always be a hybrid instructor, committed to creatively providing MSUM students opportunities to learn flexibly and thrive in a demanding world. Perhaps I am a dinosaur no more.

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