NEH grant provides faculty training for Maryville College
As Maryville College prepares to welcome students back to campus this fall, faculty, staff and administrators are taking steps to hold classes safely while still offering the same high-quality, personalized education.
A recent grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities is providing funding for some exciting upgrades to that educational experience.
On June 5, the campus community was notified about the College’s plan to safely and responsibly resume in-person classroom instruction and residential living for the fall; however, reopening would require modifications to behaviors and campus operations. When students return to campus to begin classes Aug. 19, they’ll notice several changes.
“The public health situation clearly won’t be resolved by the time we open, so we are taking steps to hold classes safely, given the realities of the pandemic,” said Dr. Dan Klingensmith, vice president and dean of the College. “In some ways, classes will feel strange. Students and faculty will be wearing masks, for example. Physical distancing will mean fewer people in the classroom. In some cases, we’ll need to hold courses online to reduce crowds in academic buildings. But the essentials of the education we provide will still be there: small classes, meaningful contact with faculty and peers, academic rigor, and community.”
Klingensmith said that in many cases, a course will be “hybrid,” meaning that some parts will be completed online, while the other parts will be in person.
“Typically, that means that instruction that is mostly about simply relaying content, like a lecture, can be online, while the fun stuff – processing, analyzing, making sense of a topic or doing a lab investigation – all of that we’ll continue in person,” the dean said. “In recent years, this has been called ‘flipping the classroom,’ and to some extent, many of our professors have already been doing it. The coronavirus crisis is simply accelerating that.”
In addition to online and hybrid, faculty members are prepared for “hy-flex” teaching, which will allow students who become sick or must quarantine to keep up with instruction, assignments and class engagement, remotely.
The dean added that community and relationships are important parts of the Maryville College experience, and he emphasized that faculty are committed to continuing to offer a highly personalized experience to students.
“Even despite altered circumstances, we can provide an education that is personalized, that gives each student a lot of opportunities for meaningful contact with a faculty member and with peers,” Klingensmith said. “Faculty don’t just talk ‘at’ students; they talk ‘with’ students. On some assignments, students work together, which is both training for the world of work, but also a way of meeting people that a student might not otherwise get to know. Above all, whether it’s in-person or online, we strive for an atmosphere in which students are not anonymous to their peers or to their professors, but bonded together by common experiences and a common commitment to scholarship, integrity and respect.”
MC receives NEH CARES Act grant to provide online training
To help faculty prepare for hybrid instruction – and for the possibility of all-online instruction, should the need arise – Maryville College has received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) CARES Act grant.
In June, the NEH announced $40.3 million in new CARES Act economic stabilization grants to support essential operations at more than 300 cultural institutions across the country. Only 14 percent of applications were funded.
Specifically, the $82,500 grant for Maryville College supports building online educational resources in the Humanities.
Humanities disciplines at Maryville College play a central role in the education of all MC students, and the College’s core curriculum is Humanities-intensive, the grant proposal states.
“We know that our Humanities faculty are excellent teachers and that they are able to inspire students to think critically and engage with challenging content,” said Dr. Heather McMahon, professor of theatre and the project director and administrator for the NEH grant. “But they have traditionally relied on face-to-face interactions, so we also knew this would be a big change for them. We wanted to support faculty who do have to go online again so that they don’t lose anything in ‘translation.’”
In addition to faculty training, the grant also supports three “fellows” – faculty members who will get a course release to develop online educational materials in the Humanities. The material will eventually be available for others to use, both on and off campus.
“In exchange, the College can use the grant funds to hire adjunct faculty, who are extremely vulnerable right now,” McMahon said.
Thanks to the grant, Humanities faculty – as well as the rest of the faculty – have received training and additional resources this summer to support their move into online and hybrid delivery, McMahon said.
The training centers around a distinctive brand of online pedagogy called the “Maryville College Way” for online Humanities teaching and learning, which “combines the Open SUNY Course Quality Rubric (OSCQR), a free, self-paced, customizable faculty tool for online pedagogy development, with distinctive features and qualities of the Maryville Curriculum and the student-faculty interaction that is central to the delivery of a personalized, high-quality education,” according to the grant proposal. Additionally, a professional instructional designer (who is also a former MC faculty member) has been hired to train faculty in best practices in online course design and delivery.
“We have focused on taking the excellent pedagogy from the classroom and morphing that into pedagogy that works well online,” McMahon said. “Moreover, we have spent time talking about some things that we can do online that we can’t do in the classroom, so that students aren’t getting a ‘lesser’ version of the same course – they are still getting an excellent educational experience in a new way.”