Facilitating Teaching and Learning in a COVID-19 Environment

female student engaged in video call uring remote learning session

This article was updated with new information on August 25, 2020.

Transitioning thousands of courses to a virtual format is no small task, and just as other institutions of higher education around the world, the faculty of UCI faced the enormous task with just a few days to prepare.

Multiple teams in the Office of Information Technology (OIT) spun into action to support the faculty’s transition to teaching in a virtual environment and have continued to provide valuable support to the campus. Anticipating needs for exam administration, lecture capture, and class discussions –  teams across OIT responded by acquiring new and expanded tools, developing training resources and increasing support capacity.

“During a turbulent transitional time for instructors, OIT has consistently provided outstanding service for continuing effective course facilitation,” said Matthew Mahavongtrakul, Postdoctoral Scholar in the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation. “From making classroom space available to providing Zoom licenses and support, I've been able to move my course remotely with minimal disruption.”

Equipping Students with Technology

In the spring, OIT staff secured 1,250 laptops for students and employees before vendors were overwhelmed by requests, enabling the campus to quickly get them into the hands of those who needed them most before the spring quarter began. In addition, 400 mobile wifi hotspots were acquired and distributed to students who didn't have access to reliable internet. Additional laptops and hotspots will be distributed again for the fall quarter through the OIT and Student Success Initiative's collaborative Equipment Loan Program.

In time for Winter finals, Respondus Lockdown Browser + Monitor were implemented as optional tools for instructors who wanted their online exams proctored remotely.

Supporting Instruction with Video Tools

As Zoom use increased following an enterprise-wide license being delivered to campus, teams in Classroom Technology Services and Information Security worked together to create user guides for safe, secure and private Zoom meetings, webinars, and class lectures. Support documentation for Yuja, the Canvas integrated media management tool that UCI has made available to faculty for lecture capture, was increased.

“I've been very impressed by OIT Classroom Technology's ability to respond quickly to my sudden need to teach remotely in Spring,” said Adrienne Williams, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Developmental and Cell Biology. “Much of this was because this group had put in a great deal of work over the past few years to have strong video systems in place that were easy to use and worked well with Canvas. When I needed to make a Yuja welcome video for my students, I was able to figure out the tools and make the recording quickly…Because I've used UCI's Zoom several times in the past year for research collaboration, it was easy to pivot to using it for teaching.”

Recently, these Zoom documentation and support resources were compiled into a new Zoom help website, to provide easy access to information about the tool's features, privacy settings and best practices.

Transitioning Courses Online

Anticipating increased needs of faculty for assistance with the learning management system, Canvas, the Academic Web Technologies team secured a support contract with Instructure to ensure increased capacity and elevated support by the team for escalated issues.

Larry Cahill, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, was one of the dozens of faculty who attended OIT’s Canvas webinars in March and shared his appreciation. "The OIT staff was very efficient in helping me address a number of problems that arose during my quick transition to Canvas.”

The Division of Teaching Excellence & Innovation has been key functional partner in collaborating with OIT teams to train and support faculty in best practices for virtual instruction. These trainings included a series of webinars and help documentation for faculty to transition to Canvas for the first time or deepen their understanding to utilize Canvas features to their fullest extent.

Learn more about how OIT is facilitating online and mixed-mode instruction courses at UCI Teach Anywhere, OVPTL Remote Teaching Strategy and UCI TechPrep.