Three Down, so Far

on Mar 27, 2020 by Michael Rupured

I just wrapped up my third straight week at home. So far, so good. How much longer sheltering in place and social distancing will be the norm is anyone’s guess, but I don’t expect to return to business as usual any time soon. For the foreseeable future, staying at home is my new normal.

The first week I took off for Spring Break. With my teaching schedule, opportunities to use vacation days are few and far between. After a crazy busy start to the semester, I was ready for some R & R.

Other than doctor appointments on two days, my only plans were to get some sun, resume my long-suspended exercise routine, and spruce up the yard for spring. Yucky weather foiled my plans. An evening of Euchre with friends was the highlight of my vacation.

Notification that all instruction had been suspended for two weeks came toward the end of the break. Faculty were directed to use the time to move all courses online for the remainder of the semester. A plethora of novel-length email messages chocked full of guidance and how-to info followed.

Many aspects of all UGA courses are already online. In addition to a roster of students (updated daily), the platform has a billion features and can do practically anything. Figuring out how is the trick.

I spent the first week overwhelmed and in shock. Several exchanges with colleagues via email and telephone helped. By the end of the week, I’d revised the schedule of topics, created a new assignment to make up for lost attendance points, and sent a message to students about the changes.

Figuring out what to do about tests has been the biggest challenge. Up to now, my tests have been on paper. The format is 25 multiple choice questions (including some true/false), answer 4 of 5 short answer questions, and define 6 or 8 terms. Grading as many as 50 tests takes several days.

The online platform, of course, has a “quiz wizard” to set up exams. Entering multiple choice and true/false items was time-consuming but easy enough to do. I’m sure it’s possible — somehow — but I couldn’t find a way to allow students to pick 4 of 5 or 6 of 8 questions.

I spent a few days researching my options. In between, I did an optional test run for students to check connections and worked on the few remaining lectures of the semester. Finally decided matching was the best alternative, then spent another day trying to figure out how to do enter the questions before reaching out for help.

The next test is ready to go. Once they begin, students will have access to the test for 90 minutes. Questions pop up randomly. In some cases, answers are scrambled too. The best part is that grading is automated. So the time investment on the front end is worth the benefit.

I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I’m ready for classes to resume next week. I’ve still got tons to do before the end of April. Having figured out how to do the tests, the going should be easier.

I’m grateful for the ability to work from home. Learning new skills is an added bonus. Having plenty of work to keep me busy during coronagedden is a blessing too. One way or another, we’ll get through this. Stay well!