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Hillier College of Architecture and Design, NJIT
by Branko Kolarevic, Dean

To Faculty and Staff:

Subject: How to Make Your Online Pivot Less Brutal

Dear colleagues,

The announced abrupt switch to online teaching must have been difficult for many of you. Although various introductory tutorials are available online, for an instructor who is new to online teaching it may seem impossible to adequately prepare for such sudden change on such a short  notice. If you never used a learning management system (LMS) such as  Blackboard, Desire2Learn (D2L), or Canvas, never set up an online class  meeting using WebEx, GoToMeeting, or Zoom, and never offered a critique  of students’ work online, the upcoming change to how you teach may seem outright “brutal.”

I think this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education may help some of you “make your online pivot less brutal:” https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Make-Your-Online-Pivot/248239

Meeting your class or studio through a computer screen next week probably won’t go smoothly. You may have a very good plan and be well  prepared, but don’t forget that some of your students may not be ready: they may not have an adequate internet connection at home, can be new to the software you intend to use, may have not taken any online course before, etc. There are many things that can go wrong and some will, almost certainly, even for instructors with considerable experience in online teaching.

It will take at least a week to work out the problems and you may need  assistance in figuring out how to resolve them. Rima Taher has kindly offered to help any of you, as she is our most experienced online teacher—please don’t hesitate to contact her for any advice. Gernot, Glenn and John are there to help too. We are also lucky to have a superb IT crew: Mike, Manny and Rich should be able to assist with the technical issues, as they already did (access to Rhino3D, Adobe software, etc.).

When it comes to your online instructional plans, we expect to see a variety of approaches as each of you will define a unique way of interacting with students online, just like you do in classrooms and studios.

I hope that you will enjoy your new online experience. It won’t be the same as meeting your students face-to-face, but it may open up new opportunities when we return to “normal” times in the fall. Some of you may choose to teach online, and some may opt for a hybrid mode; some may say “never again”.

The coming weeks will be unprecedented for all of us—faculty, staff,  students and the college’s leadership team. I wish us all good luck and that we all stay virus-free.

Branko Kolarevic, Dean

To Students:

Dear students,

I would like to thank all of you for reacting promptly to our request to remove your computers, personal belongings and project materials from the studios in Hillier College. Please note that you weren’t the only ones who had to leave our buildings because of the need for social distancing—faculty and staff were also asked to do so and were directed to work from home.

Needless to say, the change was sudden and disruptive. We are all trying to adjust to the new circumstances, myself included. Instead of working alongside my colleagues in Weston Hall, I now talk to them through a computer screen. We miss each other’s company, being in the same space, talking with each other, sharing a joke…

I am sure you too miss your classmates (well, maybe not all of them), being on NJIT’s campus, in the studios, working on your design projects and other course work, or just hanging out together.

We all have to figure out how to best function in the new, online reality. Our faculty and my colleagues in the Dean’s Office have worked  hard this week to prepare for the continuation of classes and studios this coming Monday. You should have heard from your instructors, who should have shared with you their plans, i.e. what tools to use, how class interactions will occur, how the work will be submitted, etc.

The classes and studios should meet at their scheduled times. Please note that many of our instructors are new to online teaching and have had very little time to prepare adequately for this abrupt change. Not everything will go smoothly; there are many things that can go wrong and some will, almost certainly. So, please be patient until we all adjust to the new reality and develop new routines.

It will take at least a week to work out the problems and you may need assistance in figuring out how to resolve them. Your instructors are there to help. You can also turn for assistance to your classmates, just like you would do if we were on campus.

I hope that you will enjoy your new online experience. It won’t be the same as meeting your instructors face-to-face, but it may open up new opportunities when we return to “normal” times in the fall.

The coming weeks will be unprecedented for all of us—you, our students, faculty, staff, and the college’s leadership team.

I wish us all good luck and that we all stay virus-free.

Branko Kolarevic, Dean

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