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As online classes begin, learn more about the team helping faculty keep teaching

As the spread of COVID-19 led Duke to move all undergraduate, graduate and professional classes to online or remote learning until further notice, faculty were charged with a sudden shift to remote or virtual teaching. Duke Learning Innovation’s team stepped in to help.

The recent University-wide transition to online learning has increased the workload of the Duke Learning Innovation team, which launched in the fall of 2017 when the Center for Instructional Technology and Online Duke merged. Accustomed to guiding Duke faculty members in one-on-one fellowship programs, the team is now challenged with supporting the entire faculty at the same time, wrote Shawn Miller, director of Duke Learning Innovation, in an email. 

“Our roles have changed,” Miller wrote. “Some of our teams are working around the clock. And we all have the complexity of lives at home to now consider—childcare and caring for other loved ones, health, supplies and all the rest.”

Through Keep Teaching, an initiative created to help keep classes going through remote learning while in-person meetings aren’t possible, the Learning Innovation team has been providing helpful information through the Keep Teaching website and newsletter, as well as answering individual inquiries via keepteaching@duke.edu. Individuals can expect a response between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. any day of the week. The goal is to respond within four hours of receiving the email, Miller wrote. 

Typically, the team—presently composed of 27 members—is divided into four subgroups. Members of the Teaching Innovation team assist faculty with designing creative learning approaches, while the Learning Technologies team develops online educational tools such as Sakai. The Online Duke team maintains Duke’s online learning platforms like Coursera, and the Research and Development team supports novel research on teaching and learning at Duke. 

With increased demand for their services, however, team members have had to expand beyond their traditional responsibilities, according to Miller. 

“Our talented crew is cross-trained to do many different tasks, well beyond their primary roles,” Miller wrote. “We’re doing many online workshops, which we have not done in the past. Several of us are working on improving keepteaching.duke.edu. And some of our teams have been working with others at Duke to make sure tools like Sakai and Zoom are ready and stable for the weeks ahead.”

Miller specifically acknowledged Blyth Tyrone, communications strategist at Duke’s Learning Innovation team, who has played a key role in structuring and updating the Keep Teaching website, “despite it being only her second week of work at the job,” he wrote. 

While the Learning Innovation team has been working overtime in the past week, they are not going at this endeavor alone. Miller acknowledged other Duke organizations such as the Provost’s Office, the Office of Information Technology and Student Affairs that are helping answer everyone’s questions.

Through Keep Teaching, team members are committed to welcoming varying levels of online technology competency, tailoring their teaching styles to the needs of the faculty member.

“Some of our faculty have been using online teaching technologies for years, while others are learning how to use a web camera for the first time,” Miller wrote. “We meet faculty members where they are and offer them the resources they need. We are also a resource for information related to issues of accessibility and inclusion around remote instruction.”

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