8 Faculty Reflect On The Spring 2020 Semester | Trinity University

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8 Faculty Reflect On The Spring 2020 Semester

Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Collage of Professors with ProtecTU logo

New teaching technologies combined with creative thinking will foster immersive learning experiences

As students prepare for a Fall semester like none other, Trinity’s resilient faculty share creative ways they adjusted professionally and adapted their “classrooms” throughout the Spring semester. During the Summer, Trinity invested in new teaching technologies that will provide a more immersive, interactive, and engaging learning experience for our students.

As a community, we are committed to keeping our students safe and look forward to being together in the Fall in-person or through an online or TigerFlex experience.

Photo of Jessica Hanlonen, Art and Art History

Jessica Halonen, Art & Art History

After an initial transition period to remote learning, my students and I focused on utilizing limitations to spark creative inventiveness.

In my drawing and painting courses, students built models with everyday materials to use as subjects, ‘visited’ museum collections through Google Arts & Culture, and prepared presentations on modern and contemporary painters. While these elements are not new to my teaching, an increased focus on research and small-scale studies eased the transition as students adapted the scale and materials of their projects to their home studios. This was especially important for those who were required to shift from oil to water-based media.

Kate Ritson, Art and Art History

Kate Ritson, Art & Art History

The course that posed the biggest challenge was my clay sculpture course because of the materials and equipment involved. The direction I took was to re-evaluate the content embedded in the assignments. I began by experimenting and evaluating a variety of materials since clay was no longer a viable option. I decided on paper construction-the paper, construction board, and tools could be promptly shipped to the students.

I set up my home studio with an additional camera, so I was able to give demonstrations. As a class, we worked together for the full two hours. Students were able to ask questions as they moved through the process. During the class period, I worked on challenging forms with the camera focused on my hands, so students were able to observe the problem-solving process.

Niescja Turner, Physics and Astronomy

Niescja Turner, Physics and Astronomy

The Astronomy lab is about understanding astronomical data, asking good scientific questions, and evaluating what answers can be drawn from those data. We analyzed data from professional astronomical datasets, like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Kepler mission. We met together on Zoom for a few minutes to go over the astronomical dataset of the week (Hubble, Kepler mission, etc.) Then I placed students into breakout rooms with their lab partners, and I circulated through the groups to see if they had questions. 

It feels surprisingly similar to doing this in class. 

For our observational component, students didn’t have access to Trinity’s telescopes, so I encouraged them to go outside and look up—some had binoculars or a backyard telescope to use, but most just observed with their eyes. The important thing was getting students outside and observing the sky, however that worked for them.

Our brand-new Modern Physics lab debuted in the Spring semester, where we replicate famous experiments or results from twentieth-century physics, like Marie and Pierre Curie’s radiation and Einstein’s photoelectric effect. Since the students couldn’t come into the lab and use the equipment anymore, we had to get creative. For our superconductivity experiment, for example (this is one you might have seen before where a magnet begins to levitate), one group had completed it before the break while another group had completed the Franck-Hertz experiment. Both groups got together on Zoom to share screens, trade data, and describe how their data were taken so each could still complete their own data analysis and write reports on the experiments. For another lab, students were programming in MATLAB to simulate some radioactivity data for analysis and writeup. While they can’t precisely reproduce the experience of working with lab equipment, students were still getting the physics, the data analysis, the writing, and a little extra programming experience.

Ed Schumacher, Health Care Administration

Ed Schumacher, Health Care Administration

Fortunately, most of our students’ courses were focused on large, end of the semester group projects. While we found that meeting with the entire class for short periods was helpful, the most meaningful interactions were through individual meetings (30 minutes or so) with each group team. One of the major projects in the Spring semester was our annual Tiger Tank Pitch Competition, and with the support of our incredible alumni, we plan to hold that event virtually this year.

Each year our program participates in the Cleveland Clinic Case Competition, which is open to MBA and MHA graduate students. Out of more than 70 submissions, they selected the top eight to advance to the next round, and two of those eight teams were our students. Instead of getting to travel to Cleveland, however, the competition was held virtually. Our teams ended up placing first and third overall in the competition, beating out other finalists from schools like Michigan, UCLA, Chicago, and Ohio State. 

I am incredibly proud of the resilience and fortitude our students showed by doing this on top of everything else happening in their lives.

Jack Leifer, Engineering Sciences

Jack Leifer, Engineering Sciences

Sophomore design (ENGR 2182) is the second course (in a two-course sequence) in which the focus is geared towards assisting various workers at Goodwill Industries of San Antonio to do their jobs better. This year, projects included optimizing layout and workflow through a retail and donations processing facility that was expanding into new space, designing a device to help workers hang donated clothing more quickly, and developing hardware and software to track and monitor “time of use” for lawn maintenance equipment such as string trimmers.  

As with all classes requiring the fabrication of physical devices, the COVID-19 shutdown presented our student with some challenges. Trinity’s VDI maintained students’ access to specialized software (including Fusion 360), which ensured that students could continue to make changes to their engineering drawings and models. Physical projects were assembled and tested by an individual student designated by each group, and the course instructor facilitated this by shipping components out to designated students from the engineering project storage area. New parts that needed to be fabricated were submitted to shop technicians, and completed parts were then shipped to the students.   

Students met as groups through the “breakout room” function of Zoom. During class time, these meetings were monitored and facilitated by the course instructor. During non-class times, students communicated asynchronously through other means, including GroupMe.

Mario Gonzalez-Fuentes, Business Administration

Mario Gonzalez-Fuentes, Business Administration

I taught two very different classes last semester (Marketing Research and Brand Storytelling). In the first one (very technical), I adapted by supplementing my lectures with tutorial videos on how to use statistical software to analyze data so we could use class time more effectively. In the other class (Brand Storytelling), I designed a final exam in which students applied storytelling for personal branding by creating individual digital stories that responded to the prompt: How have you changed as a result of your trajectory at Trinity?

Carolyn True, Music

Carolyn True, Music

Unlike strictly lecture/reading/writing courses, a musician’s improvement is based on aural communication, beauty and variety of sound production, ease and control of physical motions at their instruments, and stylistic, contextual, understanding of the repertoire. 

The first challenge was to determine the most effective setups. I now have two different webcams (one above my piano, one to the side) in addition to the camera on my computer set on the music desk. I had each student send me a PDF of their music and loaded it onto my iPad Pro. I regularly toggled back and forth between camera shots, screen sharing the music (through an app, I wrote on it so students could see my marks on the score with corrections, practice suggestions, etc.) In their lesson, we worked on technique and the notes I made on their repertoire and had a group meeting once a week, which also evolved. Rather than everyone playing for each other, I sent two to three students into “breakout rooms” to focus a little bit more concentratedly.

Christina Cooley, Chemistry

Christina Cooley, Chemistry

The chemistry students and faculty stayed positive on this new online learning adventure. I taught a lab course, and we got creative for how to finish out some of our final experiments. I was able to video a colleague and myself performing our peptide synthesis lab on campus during the week we were transitioning and preparing for online instruction. The students then watched the video series on YouTube and wrote down observations as if they were doing the lab themselves. While not perfect, we tried to recreate their organic chemistry lab experience as best as we could in CHEM 2220.