Concordia prepares for online learning

By Koral Tolifson

On the afternoon of Friday, March 13, Concordia College announced its decision to students and faculty that they would be resorting to remote learning on March 23rd, via online classes, due to the coronavirus that has triggered worldwide chaos.

Several universities have suspended classroom learning until later March or early April. Colleges in the local area, including Minnesota State University Moorhead and North Dakota State University, have chosen to utilize online class options for all courses. Students and faculty presume Concordia likely faced the same verdict in response to the other universities’ decisions.

When making decisions this past week, Concordia emphasized that their first concern was for the health, safety, and well-being of their students, faculty, staff, and community.

Although the change will cause a disruption to students’ learning schedules, the primary goal nationwide is to minimize the damage the coronavirus may cause. By moving to a remote learning opportunity, it will eliminate large gatherings of Cobbers in classrooms, dining services, traditional residential halls, sports teams, choirs, music ensembles, speech teams, and other extracurriculars that meet regularly in large group settings.

Anxiety has escalated across campus in the preparation for online learning. Many students have chosen Concordia for their well-known reputation of small-ratio classroom settings for a beneficial learning environment. Transitioning to online learning may be challenging for those who are unfamiliar with the remote classroom setting. Meanwhile, professors in all departments know this kind of change may be just as difficult and challenging for them as well.

Professor Dr. Najla Amundson is currently teaching two communications classes at Concordia this semester and is the advisor for the speech team, whose season has now been cut short. Amundson has never taught a course online, but she is familiar with some of the online resources she will need to utilize in the coming weeks.

Amundson reassures students, “faculty understand they need to make accommodations to the course expectations” based on the shift in the learning schedule.

Joe Kennedy, Instructional Designer and Academic Technologist for Concordia Information Technology Services, would like to reassure both students and faculty that, “it’s going to be okay.”

Kennedy also alerts students that the learning will still happen despite the change in delivery. Professors want students to remain calm and understand that they are aware that this change and uncertainty can cause unease. For the students that are worried about participating in online course with professors that barely know how to maximize the screen of a YouTube video, Kennedy responds, “The one thing every professor is good at is their ability to learn.”

On the morning of Friday, March 13, there was a workshop for all professors that would like to learn more about online resources in preparation for remote learning. With less than a day’s notice, 70 professors showed up to learn or assist at the workshop.

Kennedy explained that Concordia is fully supporting two tools for online learning: Moodle Forum, a discussion board, and Zoom, which is video conferencing. Professors can use other tools if they are comfortable, but Kennedy said they focused the workshop around these tools because they both allow student collaboration.

Amundson openly expressed that she is concerned that the online learning will not have the same impact on students’ learning as the face-to-face learning. To add “normalcy” to the unusual circumstance, Amundson is opting to use Google Hangouts so she can still host class and the students will have the ability to collaborate and interact with each other throughout the lesson.

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