October 26, 2020

Professors Pool Resources to Focus on ‘Compelling Courses’

Assistant Professor of Biology April Wynn is among the dozens of UMW professors participating this summer in Compelling Courses, a faculty learning community to help instructors design engaging courses.

Assistant Professor of Biology April Wynn is among the dozens of UMW professors participating this summer in Compelling Courses, a faculty learning community to help instructors design engaging courses.

To teach mitosis, April Wynn has students in her class act out the process, portraying chromosomes that divide into nuclei. The assistant professor of biological sciences hopes to replicate lively exercises like this – but virtually – in the fall.

“My goal is to promote the same level of engagement, energy and enthusiasm in an online space,” said Wynn, who, as faculty director of the University of Mary Washington’s First-Year Experience, is helping other instructors do the same for their classes.

Professors often spend their breaks on scholarly research, but Wynn is among dozens of UMW faculty members who went back to school this summer. Through a new faculty learning community called Compelling Courses, representatives from nearly every academic department have been teaching each other how to deliver dynamic online lessons and incorporate the best of the UMW experience into distance learning.

In March of this year, UMW professors – the majority of whom had never taught online – abruptly had to shift to a new method of teaching. The succeeding months have given these instructors time to tinker with and tweak tools so that they are fully prepared to teach virtually if necessary. Many, like Wynn, have found that this modality can even offer benefits.

“We believe teaching can be excellent regardless of medium,” said Professor of Economics Steve Greenlaw, who launched the group with Professor of Communication Anand Rao. “It all depends on how you design the course.” Read more.