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Faculty rise to the challenge of online teaching as they continue Training Champions for Christ

According to Robert Hurt, dean of Liberty University’s Helms School of Government (HSOG), faculty and staff managed the first week of transitioning residential classes to online just like any other week.

As with his residential classes, government professor Larry Presley uses Scripture to engage students during his online sessions.

“Regardless of the circumstances, the professors are committed to making sure that our students don’t miss a beat in getting a quality education, so they had this spirit of ‘Let’s not waste any time doing anything other than figuring out how to get it done,’” Hurt said.

That sentiment has been embraced throughout the campus as faculty and staff work together to continue the mission of Training Champions for Christ.

Liberty moved most of its residential classes online on March 23, immediately after Spring Break.

Hurt said that prior to the first day of classes, faculty and staff throughout the university worked over the break to prepare for lectures and put processes in place to take attendance, monitor Blackboard, and even add prayer requests for going online.

“In less than a week, we’ve been able to get our team together and get them totally up to speed,” Hurt said last Monday. “They not only teach through Microsoft Teams, they can also teach their students how to use it as well.”

Dr. Stephen Parke, HSOG’s residential associate dean, said that based upon feedback from discussions and chats online, the students in his 8:15 a.m. class enjoyed the interactive format. He said that his students seem motivated by the new platform and that he will continue to go live Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:15 a.m. (Most classes are keeping their scheduled times).

“If the students are going to be there, I’ll be there,” Parke said.

Just like in the classroom, professors are continuing to engage students in ways that go beyond core learning. Larry Presley, an assistant professor at HSOG, started off his class with a discussion of being still and trusting the Lord through the current trial. Presley said although the format for the class may be different, the goals for the class and the students have not changed. “I encourage my students to continue being Champions for Christ, being scholars, and maintaining relationships.”

Dr. Chris Huseman interacts with students during one of his online marketing classes.

Dr. Chris Huseman, associate professor of marketing in the School of Business, said it is beneficial to provide normalcy and stability in a time when things can be very chaotic. He sees benefits in allowing for the live, interactive nature of the online classes, where students pull up the live video and interact with him and their peers.

“This has given them a little bit more time to process the changes they’ve recently experienced. It wasn’t so final; it wasn’t ‘OK, that’s it … we will see you next fall,’” Huseman said.

The online interactive format has also helped sustain the connections that the students have built with their peers and professors.

“The students truly make the day,” Huseman said. “If we had gone to the format where we didn’t have the videoconferencing, I would feel extremely sad … like I’d lost something. I’d imagine the students would feel it as well.”

For some schools, like the School of Aeronautics (SOA) and its Aviation Maintenance Technician Program, moving the courses online called for special arrangements.

“It required a special dispensation — an emergency order from the Federal Aviation Administration that allows us to do maintenance training digitally because it has never been allowed before,” SOA Dean Rick Roof said.

Some elements of the Flight Instruction and Maintenance training do require hands-on work, and these sections will be completed at a later date, once face-to-face instruction has been reinstituted.

School of Aeronautics professor Jonathan Washburn adapts his classes to a fully online platform.

Although SOA faculty have been utilizing interactive tools to teach classes and engage students in the curriculum, moving to a fully online platform required a team effort. Roof and Dr. Mitchell Morrison, associate dean, said the smooth transition to the online Microsoft Teams platform is largely due to the knowledge, training, and support of Liberty’s IT staff, the Center for Academic Development — Teaching Excellence, and the SOA faculty and staff.

“All of a sudden we were notified that our world was changing … while our students were away at Spring Break,” Roof said. “What we saw with our team, across the university and certainly within our school, was a continued desire to deliver with excellence, care for our students, and continue to give them the quality that brought them to Liberty.”

Dean Hurt summed up the overall sentiment echoed by faculty and staff who have worked together during this transition.

“Anytime you have a challenge like this, the Lord always shows you the positive things that you weren’t really sure about until you get in the middle of it … and that’s what we’ve seen here.”

>>The Liberty University School of Nursing has also adjusted to a virtual learning format using interactive software. Read more.

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