ENE Faculty Hosts COVID-19 Teaching Salon

Author: Teresa Walker
Event Date: June 30, 2020
In late May, after the Spring semester ended and everyone was adjusting to their new norms living with the stay-at-home orders, curiosity and questions about classroom instruction began to be exchanged. “So, what did you end up doing?” Luckily, in a college town the size of West Lafayette, faculty are neighbors. While checking in with each other, Dr. Alice Pawley, an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education, had a thought that if they were talking about it in their own neighborhood, surely there were more wondering about what others did to finish the semester?

This led to the idea of bringing together the Purdue community for a larger scale discussion through the use of Zoom. An invitation followed and she soon learned that, in fact, there were more. A lot more. 

A COVID-19 Teaching Salon Invitation

“So, what did you end up doing?” A COVID-19 Teaching Salon hosted by the School of Engineering Education Faculty

Dr. Pawley Setup of Station on Zoom

Over 250 faculty and instructors from Purdue University (with 11 colleges represented and 9 engineering schools), as well as faculty from University of Illinois at Urbana, Harding University, and Tokyo Tech, registered for the June 12, 2020 discussion. The advertised one-hour “frank discussion” allowed instructors to talk in small groups about what they did to move classes online in light of COVID-19, what worked, and what didn’t work. “We organized it like an ‘unconference’ – that is, that the best part of a conference is the conversations you have in the hallway with whomever is there.  So we suggested some types of classes people might want to talk about, put them in a Zoom breakout room together, and invited them to share with each other,” said Prof. Pawley.  “We had practiced organizing small groups through Zoom breakout rooms in First-Year engineering courses that we moved virtual this spring, and it worked really well.”

With 130 faculty and instructors logged on, and with the help of Dr. Tamara Moore, Professor of Engineering Education, they quickly moved into their self-assigned groups based on types of classes – e.g. discussion-based classes, capstone design, labs, field work, and exams moved online. Each breakout group took notes to share with the broader community, which included helpful links to tools, apps, and services that were utilized by various departments. “Tamara and I were so excited that over half of registrants showed up, and the vast majority of them stayed the whole time,” said Prof. Pawley. Further, “People were generous with sharing the good, bad, and ugly, and the lessons they learned so that others wouldn’t make the same mistakes they had.  I think the turnout and people’s generosity in the breakout rooms says a lot about who we are and what we are about as a Purdue community.  Everyone was focused helping Boilermakers have an exceptional education across majors, class levels, and types of courses, no matter what mode we’re teaching in this fall.”

Future Sessions; Volunteers?

At the end of the hour, Profs. Pawley and Moore ran some reflection questions in the chat to quickly learn that the discussions were definitely helpful, with additional (longer) discussions requested for the future, and with additional discussions wanted as soon as July, not waiting until August. Someone in the Zoom chat also suggested pop-in sessions in the fall, so this could also be an opportunity for continued engagement long term.

They are currently seeking additional volunteers who would like to help organize and host the future events, with special interest in the exams, lectures, and capstone design small group discussions. Volunteers interested in hosting future discussions can contact Alice Pawley for questions and instruction. Once dates and topics have been set, those who registered for the first discussion will receive email updates. If you are interested in participating in the future events and did not register for the first discussion, please contact Teresa Walker to be added to the list for communication.