Finding success in the new digital environment

Finding success in the new digital environment

Convergence magazine > Finding success in the new digital environment

Faculty and staff in the Fulton Schools have found engaging and effective ways to carry on classes and other activities remotely.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASU transitioned all in-person classes and activities to online delivery March 16. Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students, faculty and staff jumped into action to adjust to a new normal — trying new things, finding solutions and adapting to a new mode of learning.

The online videoconferencing tool Zoom helps bring students, faculty and university staff together during social distancing.

Christina Carrasquilla, a senior lecturer of graphic information technology in The Polytechnic School, makes extra effort to check in with how her students are doing.

“I start and end every remote lecture by asking the students how they are and if they’d like to share their experiences, both successes and challenges,” she says. “I think it’s validating to hear that others are having the same struggles and learning from tips and tricks the others have discussed.”

screen capture of Christina Carrasquilla's online class
Lecturer Christina Carrasquilla holds breakout sessions in her online classes hosted on the video conferencing platform Zoom. She and her students have found this feature makes group work more engaging. Image courtesy of Christina Carrasquilla

Olivia Burnsed, a lecturer of biomedical engineering in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, says online classes have led her to getting more feedback from her students and has given them more individualized instruction.

Jeffrey Kleim, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, is taking his classes to the popular streaming platform with the help of a friend, a film and postproduction graphics editor.

“When the lockdown occurred, he showed me how to convert my living room into a greenscreen studio with fairly minimal investment and how to broadcast live on,” Kleim says. “The students are loving it.”

Exams are also still going smoothly for Keith Hjelmstad, President’s Professor of structural engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, even though they required paper and pencil.

During the online class period, Hjelmstad and his teaching assistants watched the students on Zoom to ensure there was no academic dishonesty, just as they would have done with an in-class exam. Then students scanned or photographed their test papers to turn them in.

“In many ways, I felt like I got a better view of the students than in an in-person exam,” Hjelmstad says.

Jeffrey Kleim standing in front of screen displaying notes for his class
Associate Professor Jeffrey Kleim hosts his classes on popular livestreaming platform Twitch. With the help of a Hollywood film editor, he set up a studio in his condo for a better online class experience. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Kleim

For lab courses requiring the use of specialized equipment, instructors such as Mackenzie Boyer, a lecturer of civil and environmental engineering, are incorporating video demonstrations to bring the lab to students’ homes.

Boyer’s teaching assistant, graduate student Thiago Barbosa, recorded himself conducting a lab experiment and provided the data for students to use to calculate results.

“The students missed out on the opportunity to measure the dissolved oxygen in raw wastewater dilutions, but were still able to come away with a good understanding of concepts behind biochemical oxygen demand tests,” Boyer says. “If only Zoom could transmit smells too.”

As Fall 2020 registration began, advising activities also had to adapt to online delivery.

“Graduate registration for the fall semester started March 20, so we typically see a lot of students regarding classes for the fall semester,” says Lynn Pratte, academic success coordinator who advises graduate students in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

Drop-in advising via Zoom is going well for Pratte and her colleagues, as Zoom offers features that mirror what it’s like to be in an advising office.

While many classes and university activities are running smoothly, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.

screen caputure from online environmental engineering lab
Teaching assistant Thiago Barbosa demonstrates a biochemical oxygen demand lab experiment for Lecturer Mackenzie Boyer’s course, CEE 361: Introduction to Environmental Engineering. Videos bring the lab to students who are attending classes online from home. Image courtesy of Thiago Barbosa

The School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering information technology team — including Brint MacMillan, a senior systems support analyst — has been hard at work preparing resources for students, faculty and staff to learn, teach, research and work remotely.

As IT staff for the largest of the six Fulton Schools, MacMillan and others have already been exploring remote systems to meet the needs of nearly 8,000 students. For example, racks of circuit boards with cameras pointed at them and virtual computing environments help computer science students remotely access equipment.

Outside of the classroom, student organizations that conduct community outreach are also adapting their activities for social distancing.

Cassidy Michaels, a biomedical engineering major and co-director of outreach for the Society of Women Engineers section at ASU, is working with SWE to create online tutoring and videos for parents, guardians and educators to facilitate fun engineering activities that can be done at home.

Michaels says, “We are hoping this initiative will allow us to continue to help and inspire the next generation of students through this challenging time.”

Society of Women Engineers co-director of outreach Rhiannon Lewis works on a project.
Aerospace engineering major and Society of Women Engineers Co-director of outreach Rhiannon Lewis works on a project for the organization’s 2019 GEAR Day outreach event. The ASU section of SWE often participates in large group outreach events. With the COVID-19 outbreak, SWE student co-director of outreach Cassidy Michaels (not pictured) is working on ways to support K-12 students, teachers and parents to continue their educational efforts remotely. Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
(480) 727-1958 | [email protected]

Share This