The Dean's List

Thrown Into the Online World

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The Dean's List

Thrown Into the Online World

Dr. Cory Maloney reflects on how schools across all levels pivoted to online learning and the lessons we learned here at Franciscan.

Summer 2021 | Dr. Corey Maloney

In This Article

In March 2020, most universities and K-12 schools were forced to pivot and move all courses to online or remote format so students could finish their courses. By God’s grace, Franciscan University was much better positioned than most to make this rapid adjustment since 1) most of our professors and students had been using our Learning Management System, 2) many had even taught and taken online courses, and 3) we had an eLearning support team to help convert these courses.

We quickly created online assignments and exams and recorded course after course in our on-campus studios. Professors even recorded themselves in their offices or basements so we could continue the semester remotely. This transition was a heroic endeavor, and I am so proud of each member of our campus community—faculty, staff, and students—who worked together to complete the semester!

That being said, most of these “COVID-19 Converted Courses” were far from the high quality, carefully crafted, highly engaging online courses we take pride in calling Franciscan Online Courses.

When we are not churning out classes during a pandemic, we strive to maintain our commitment to creating academically excellent, passionately Catholic online courses. All our online courses are built by our distinguished professors who are not only experts in their fields but also passionately dedicated to presenting the content in light of the truth of the Catholic Church. Each professor works closely with an instructional designer through an intensive, five- to seven-week course design process that is centered on crafting learning objectives for the course.

There is a natural inclination to attempt to replicate what we do in our on-campus courses in these new online ones. But I always cringe when I hear discussions about which is better, online or on-campus courses? This is the wrong question. The better question is how do we create the best online or on-ground course realizing there are unique benefits and challenges in both?

To take this a step further, we also must not assume there is one best pedagogical model for every course offered in the same format. Regardless if it is on-campus or online, a literature course cannot be taught the same as an accounting course.

To examine this at a more micro level, one of many powerful tools we utilize in online courses is video. Within this one tool, we have dozens of ways to use it to achieve the learning objectives. For example, videos can be brief lectures, integrate quizzes and discussions, utilize a drawing tool or PowerPoint, be dialogues with colleagues, allow students to record presentations, and so on.

There are dozens of tools with dozens of uses to engage online students in the content, with one another, and with the professor. We must approach each new online course as a blank slate in which we discern the best way to achieve the specific learning objectives given the strengths and limitations of the delivery format.

One positive aspect of the COVID19 course conversion was that it threw all of us, even those who never wanted to teach or learn online, into the online world. Students appreciated being able to complete their courses from home, and we all learned more about what works (and what doesn’t) in online courses.

Also, this engagement with all our students being temporarily moved online led Franciscan to officially launch Franciscan Life Online. This unique initiative expands the online student experience by providing an authentic Franciscan formation with an online campus community for our nearly 1,000 students who may never set foot on campus. Under the leadership of Father Jonathan St. André, TOR, vice president of Franciscan Life, we are crafting objectives to ensure our online students receive a genuine Franciscan education and formation outside as well as inside our online classrooms.

Dr. Cory Maloney serves as dean of Online Programs and professor of business at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

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