Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Julia Cronin-Gilmore
Meet Dr. Julia Cronin-Gilmore, Professor in the College of Business and Director, Doctorate of Business Administration Program.
What was it like transitioning face-to-face classes to online?
Most of our courses are offered online and the face-to-face classes contain the components of an online course. As such, it was simply turning them on and adjusting the syllabus for discussion questions and assignments. Across the nation, we have seen secondary educational institutions scramble to transition traditional face-to-face classes to online in a short amount of time.
I feel very fortunate to teach at an institution who has been progressively offering online education since 1996. At Bellevue University, we have been driving online education into the future for some time, have learned much along the way, and are increasingly advancing education as a result. An excellent example are degrees offered fully online, hybrid, or as combination mixing online and face-to-face interaction. Our online courses are asynchronous learning and the use of Zoom and other technology sources allow professors and students to connect synchronously (in real time), as well.
How long have you been teaching online?
I have been teaching online for 13 years and have seen many advancements in that time. In the beginning, I remember creating course content, loading it online and later teaching the class. Today, we have an entire department of instructional designers who can enhance learning by creating a variety of interactive activities resulting in highly sophisticated courses. It is really pretty fun to think of something that will enhance student learning and watch as they create an outstanding activity. A recent example is having students view and listen to an online focus group, which the designers created and embedded into the course. After, students create codes and themes from the transcript. The exercise allows students to practice and hone valuable skills enhancing the learning experience.
What are some changes you initiated because of the COVID-19 situation?
We still have students who are under a great deal of stress due to the current COVID-19 crisis. Much like my face-to-face courses, my online students know the class is a safe place. There is much care in the relationship between a professor and student and it transcends into how they treat each other, as well. When there is chaos in the environment, students need support, so I have added new elements to the class beyond our traditional coursework. Along with my open online office, I have integrated resources to the course such as mediation exercises to help them stay grounded. I shared free conferences where students can expand their knowledge base. I provided information on free training including certifications. I shared local and national resources for job listings for those who are concerned about their present employment situation. In addition, I continue to check in with them to see how they are doing and offer supportive positive feedback when grading. Caring about them as a person is important because the support helps them become successful learners.
What are some current challenges as an online professor and what have you learned to overcome them?
Because most professors are working from home, it is important to stick to a schedule and decide when it is time to work and when to stop and have free time. I find it helpful to select a nice spot to work in that is comfortable. I look forward to waking up each morning as I make my favorite coffee, head to the living room, open the window (only slightly on cold days), listen to the birds chirping and glance up to see them on the feeder. It is a very peaceful and beautiful way to start the day.
In my courses, I like to start my day, too, by checking in with students, posting intriguing questions, asking how they are and more. During this time of crisis, I have offered my students a diversion at times, such as posting an article about famous places to visit and asking them to select from the list or suggest something new. These approaches, along with other activities, offer a bit of a break. If students are in your course, it may be one of the only ways they are connecting with the outside world, so engaging them in a different way, even for a brief time, could make a difference.