Public, private, and parochial schools across the nation have temporarily closed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nationwide crisis is astonishing as closures have impacted over 60% of the national K-12 student population and thousands of additional adult learners. All South Carolina public schools were closed through the end of the school year. Shortly afterwards, universities and colleges across the state announced extensions of spring break and continuations of online courses following Governor Henry D. McMaster’s order. In an instant, parents were perplexed as to how their children’s education would be impacted. Educators on every level questioned their personal preparedness in how to deal with the extent of the crisis. In a remarkable moment, school districts and institutions of higher learning were forced to immediately reassess how they would continue to provide the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required to keep students and adult learners enrolled in the schools, colleges, and university programs. Teachers and instructors were forced to embrace new online and virtual delivery practices. In the hearts and minds of many teachers, the need to adapt to this new virtual learning modality brought fear, questions of competency, and insecurity regarding how they would effectively serve their students, meet standards, and achieve learning outcomes.
The ever-changing world of technology has consistently challenged educational providers to offer learning environments that integrate best practices of online instructional design and delivery. In the post-secondary academic setting, pre-COVID-19, several colleges and universities were noticing trends towards online learning preferences and began to dive deeper into developing virtual training opportunities that encouraged hybrid courses and the use of virtual teaching techniques.
Southern Wesleyan University has dedicated much effort toward providing undergraduate and graduate faculty professional development and training opportunities designed to maximize the virtual learning teaching experience. SWU provides technological support to faculty and staff who want to stay afloat and effective in their subject area through faculty peer coaching and the open-door offices of the Center for Teaching Excellence. At SWU, we are familiar with online learning management systems, virtual platforms and implementing online best practices. We aim to create a supportive online course community, using both synchronous and asynchronous activities, and focusing on content resources and applications that can be linked and accessed from the learner’s computer. It is “what we do” as we offer several accredited online programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.
As a full-time online Associate Professor within the School of Education, I can honestly say the pandemic may have bruised the operations of Southern Wesleyan University, but has certainly not left us broken. Virtual graduations continued, Zoom meetings expanded, the integration of Microsoft Team was launched, and even our Canvas Learning Management System has created a sense of consistency and connectedness among our students and faculty that is needed during these challenging times. God can bring blessings from COVID-19. In Isaiah 40:31, the Bible tells us, “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Students, teachers, and faculty must rest is His word.
“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” - Isaiah 40:31
COVID-19 is an unpleasant, awful thing. But there are good gifts that God can bring even from this. As I think about my own life - and maybe this is true for you - through COVID-19, I have been reminded that I do not control my life. COVID-19 has shown me that I am utterly and completely dependent on the living God at home, when working, everywhere. Therefore, I trust that God will continue to allow the SWU Warriors to be vessels of Christ utilizing the tools of technology to assist us in fulfilling our mission for teaching and learning within a Christian ethic of care.
“I trust that God will continue to allow the SWU Warriors to be vessels of Christ utilizing the tools of technology to assist us in fulfilling our mission for teaching and learning within a Christian ethic of care.”
In preparation for the uncertain times ahead, SWU is offering a free online course From Remote Instruction to Online Learning. We hope this will aid you in this time of unprecedented transition and change.