Published on March 29, 2020 by Leighton Doores  
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Orlean Beeson School of Education faculty are connecting with students in new ways as the university transitions to online instruction for the remainder of the semester. In addition to providing online assignments, Education Learning Commons and Technology Coordinator Amanda Stone and adjunct professor Dana Joyner expanded the student experience to meet students’ needs beyond the classroom. 

Using online instruction learning management platforms such as Canvas Conference, Google Hangouts or Zoom, many Samford classes include online chatting and collaboration. Stone and Joyner expanded the experience by providing free alternative platforms like Mozilla Virtual Hubs and augmented reality scavenger hunts.  All of these platforms allow for presentations, movies and soon a virtual egg hunt with an online science experiment for students. To participate, each student creates their own avatar represented by anything from a duck to a doughnut. In the virtual space, the student avatars walk around, chat and collaborate. To find their assignments, they participate in a scavenger hunt and locate other objects along the way. Students can screen capture or record their screens to share.

The experience helps to socially and emotionally engage students while still being able to provide challenging instruction. The tech hub world and virtual egg hunt are essentially gamified instruction, but learning is still at the heart of the platform.

“I think balance is very important during this time,” Stone said. “It’s more than just online learning. We have to think about the bigger picture and the well-being of our students.”

Rather than overwhelming their students with assignments in the first few weeks of online transition, Stone and Joyner want to provide them various interactive outlets to ask questions and have conversations with each other. It is also a way to check in with everyone and ensure the transition is going smoothly.

Stone and Joyner will continue to demonstrate different platforms that the students can utilize as teachers in the future.

For junior Emily Daniel, being able to have fun and connect socially with her classmates while receiving instruction has made all the difference.

“At a time when there is so much unknown, it is helpful to have professors who care about the quality of instruction they are offering as well as our needs,” said Daniel. “I truly couldn’t be happier with their online instruction.”