Faculty learn about humanizing online instruction, COVID-19 impact in fall forum

CEO and founder of iDesign Paxton Rider spoke to faculty during the 2020 Virtual Fall Faculty Meeting on Thursday, Sept. 3 via Zoom.

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

Baylor plans to further develop digital online learning with iDesign and track additional metric points on the COVID-19 dashboard this semester.

President Linda Livingstone and Provost Nancy Brickhouse facilitated the fall 2020 faculty meeting on Thursday, Sept. 3 via Zoom.

CEO and founder of iDesign Paxton Rider spoke to faculty about how the partnership enhances work in professional development for teaching. He explained some of the concepts of iDesign, including what he called learning experience design, or LX design.

Learning experience design blends the concepts of instructional design, putting content online and user experience, designing with the end user in mind.

Not only does learning experience strive to improve online teaching by thinking from the end user’s perspective, but Rider also said it “will make massive dividends for you when you go back and teach face-to-face in your blended environment.”

Chief Academic Officer of iDesign Whitney Kilgore demonstrated a few of the layouts and applications, such as GoReact and a podcast feature in the digital learning space available for course instruction.

Kilgore’s work has been about humanizing online teaching and learning, so she encouraged faculty presence in their online course instruction by including a welcome video and creating a playful avatar/emoji of themselves to include on the course information page.

“A well-structured course will support face-to-face, hybrid, or online learning, and if it’s done really correctly, it will reduce stress and uncertainty,” Kilgore said.

Rider said he already received positive feedback from department online programs such as the masters in computer science, education doctorate degree in learning and organizational change and distance accelerated bachelor of science in nursing.

Apart from the new online course enhancements made with iDesign and faculty training, President Livingstone acknowledged the significant investment in virus precautions taken around campus this semester. Cleaning and sanitation of facilities, tent structures, virus testing and more security and support to students had to be budgeted.

She said the prudent measures taken in spring and summer and a higher fall enrollment rate than projected helped to prepare for the expenses this semester.

“We built the budget for this year anticipating a 10% reduction in enrollment,” Livingstone said. “Seeing our enrollment come in at our original plan was a positive for our financial situation. The way we’re looking, we are still being cautious about our financial perspective.”

Along with the investments in precautionary measures on campus, metric points on the COVID-19 dashboard are monitored daily for the prevalence of the virus in the campus community.

Clinical associate professor Dr. Ben Ryan has led the development of the dashboard and leads a medical advisory group that reviews the dashboard data daily. He said they used dashboard data and sewage testing to stay ahead of the curve, like being able to catch the outbreak in Martin last week. He also said contact tracing is a big part of managing the virus. The school is exceeding the recommendation for contact tracers — one contact tracer for every 1,000 in a population — at one for every 400 in the school’s population.

“We feel like we are in a position right now to manage this and to be able to see when there are red flags that we need to get ahead of sooner that will help keep us on campus,” Livingstone said.

Livingstone also said several metric points are tracked to have a holistic perspective on any interim steps taken or major decisions for continuing the semester in-person. The positivity rate on campus and isolation capacity is critical. She said she hoped to create Baylor’s own R(t) score on campus, a measure of how many people one positive case infects. Right now, the R(t) score reflected on the dashboard is that in McLennan County.

In the near future, Ryan said they are planning on breaking out the populations of positive COVID-19 cases on the dashboard, but right now the pure volume of data that’s come in has made it difficult. He said there have been about 23,000 tests since Aug. 1, which is more testing than what 35 countries have done in total.

Furthermore, Associate Vice President for Student Life Dr. Sharra Hynes is planning on the semester staying its course. Baylor is still planning on a Homecoming celebration and working out details of the parameters for the festivities with the city of Waco.