Emory Report
November 23, 2009
Volume 23, Number 11

You vs. the flu:
How to stay connected

Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching offers the following advice for how faculty can keep the communication lines open with students during flu season.

• Develop a communications strategy: Advise students where to locate course information, plan to stay in touch with instructional staff and update an online syllabus with course changes.

• Use Instant Messenger or video chat to communicate one-on-one. Use the announcements page on Blackboard to tell students when you will be available online for virtual office hours.

• Record a class lecture or videotape a lab experiment for students to review later on iTunes U.

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November 23, 2009
Rx for communication during season of illness

By Margie Fishman

Nathan Flacker, medical director of The Emory Clinic at Wesley Woods and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, took one look at the looming flu season — packed with a double whammy of common seasonal flu and novel H1N1 — and realized “this could be bad.”

Flacker was preparing to teach his first-year medical students a “healthy humans” module on aging. But he worried that half his students wouldn’t be healthy enough to make it to class.

His concern is shared among Emory faculty, who are anticipating a bumpy season of extended student absences and course delays.

Blogs, Blackboard, podcasting and videoconferencing are here to help.

Recently, Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT), in collaboration with the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, held a “Getting your Content Online” workshop to help faculty and staff explore the various ways to communicate online with bedridden students — and vice-versa. Among the suggestions: Recording and narrating a PowerPoint lecture and uploading it to iTunes U, posting syllabi and assignments on Blackboard, and organizing group work through Google Docs. For more information on the options available, including a detailed matrix, visit cet.emory.edu.

The workshop, which may be offered again toward the end of this year, was part of an ongoing discussion series on different methods to teach millenials, said ECIT Director Wayne Morse.

At present, thousands of Emory courses use Blackboard, the University’s Web-based repository for course material, as a supplement to classroom instruction.

Finding the right tool to get the job done depends on several factors, including faculty members’ comfort level with the technology and the amount of time they want to invest in getting up to speed, Morse said.

“Don’t try to digest all the tools at once,” he warned a dozen faculty and staff in the workshop audience. “It would be overwhelming.”

LearnLink, for instance, is a quick and easy way to send class e-mail alerts, while streaming media can be more complex and time-consuming, Morse said.

“I find a lot of these tools intriguing,” said Niall Slater, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Latin and Greek, who attended the workshop despite using a dial-up modem at home. Slater, currently on sabbatical, said he wanted to learn how to incorporate interactive technology into his courses year-round. “It was very helpful for me to get an overview about how we can put course materials online efficiently,” he added.

As for Flacker, he taught his class section on aging earlier this month without rampant student absence. The real test will come, he predicted, if he contracts the flu.

“I’m not sure I would actually have the energy to turn on my computer,” he said.