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Faculty Focused on Learning with Transition to Virtual Instruction in Place

Ferris State University
Ferris State University's Spring 2020 academic semester has witnessed a shift from face-to-face course delivery to online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ferris State University’s Spring 2020 semester classes will continue through Friday, May 8, as faculty and students continue to operate under a new temporary normal since campuses were closed, in March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ferris’ academic colleges and many of the faculty quickly shifted from the traditional face-to-face instruction to an online delivery method to serve students. Ferris State UniversityThe sudden instruction-delivery change hasn’t been entirely free of its challenges, but preparation has been a critical component in this effort.

Associate Professor of Information Security and Intelligence Jerry Emerick said that his College of Business program faculty began communicating during spring break in preparation to continue instruction online when the campus would eventually close.

“We had virtual meetings of our own so we could assure that we were responsive to student needs and flexible in our approach to offering any learning opportunity that we could manage,” Emerick said. “We continued with conventional outlets, like virtual labs and web conferencing, but made adjustments, as necessary, connecting with and listening to our students so we could meet the goals of each class as closely as possible.”

Emerick said that even though ISI students might be among the most technically adept groups at the university, the change to online instruction was a learning experience for faculty and students.

“Teaching online is certainly different than preparing for a classroom setting,” Emerick said. “We have accepted that the additional work is important to meeting our instructional goals and are pleased that our students have accepted and responded to this challenge.”

Expressions offered by composing thoughts into short stories and other written forms are among the submissions to World Languages and Literature Professor Deirdre Fagan without the classroom discussions and writing conferences common to a semester schedule.

“My students are understanding and supportive, but a bit stressed. Some are having to navigate more home-based and personal demands, a lack of textbooks and notes, or trying to keep up with their writing on only a phone, with no access to certain tools on our course site,” Fagan said. “I am most grateful for the university’s swift, intelligent and humane response to this crisis and for the continued support of Ferris staff, my faculty colleagues, and my students at this time. Through my flexibility and all of theirs, my students and I are managing to move forward in productive ways. I am proud of everyone’s tenacity and commitment, and I look forward to finishing the term with my students in meaningful ways.”

Fagan, like Emerick, acknowledged that the interaction they experience in a classroom setting is a valuable element of the learning process.

“I miss seeing my students,” Fagan said. “I miss their smiling faces and laughter, their curiosity, and their expressions changing from confusion to understanding, that I am so often able to witness in person.”