As the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), and the world, continue taking measures to mitigate the reach of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, unprecedented efforts are underway to ensure the university continues on course to deliver excellence in advanced education, anytime and anywhere.
Under a mandate by NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau, all residential unclassified classes will transition to distance learning (DL) when the Spring Quarter launches, March 30. Conducting coursework online, for as long as it needs to, will afford the university its best opportunity to pre-empt the virus’ transmission throughout the NPS community, treating the state’s guidelines on shelter in place and social distancing with due urgency.
“At this scale, we are navigating through uncharted waters,” Rondeau observed in a message broadcast to NPS students, faculty and staff. “In times like these, our commitment to working together is essential and your collective efforts to date have been extraordinary and inspiring.”
Face-to-face instruction is most often the best option for many kinds of learning, especially laboratory, science and technology education, and the special interactions of our practitioner-students and faculty. However, with opportunity in the circumstances, the campus moved to support the transition to nearly total DL quickly and expertly.
The university boasts a long history of DL eduaction, dating back to the mid-1990s, but it’s the relatively new Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC) that is serving as a central hub for communication, information, references, and web-based resources and tools to support the transition.
For those faculty members new to virtual classrooms, the TLC is offering workshops and individual coaching to utilize Zoom video conferencing, the Sakai collaborative learning management system and other DL technologies.
The TLC serves as the locus for a “common teaching experience,” enabling NPS faculty to come together to share lessons learned and helpful tips, explained Dr. Ralucca Gera, TLC director and Associate Provost for Graduate Education.
“The TLC will collect and make available, to the wider campus, faculty and departmental resources as they are shared,” she said. “In response to the rapid switch from resident to DL, the TLC is supporting learning-focused communities of practice and is providing leadership and resources as NPS goes fully all-in and online.”
As virtual instruction partly supplants traditional face-to-face education, such sharing of knowledge becomes imperative and enables faculty and students to adapt and overcome new challenges as the health crisis continues to unfold over the weeks and months to come.
The keyword in this process is flexibility which, as Rondeau noted, affords faculty and students the ability to successfully meet the demands of a new normal. Rondeau also noted that NPS will be assessing the pros and cons of DL over an extended period of time, taking into account the professional analyses of learning that is resident in the university, content quality, learning quality and feedback from students, faculty and curriculum sponsors. She noted that this period is an opportunity to advance the university’s continuation exploration, understanding and application of learning techniques and to learn and apply best practices
“Faculty are free to decide how best to teach their courses online,” she said. “While we prefer you teach synchronously during your regularly scheduled class times, we understand that this may not be feasible for all faculty. Those who, because of child care or other issues, cannot hold online synchronous classes may record them at home for asynchronous delivery. Those teaching this way should make themselves available for regular online office hours with individual students or small groups.
“These are unprecedented times and I am very proud of how everyone is coming together to support each other professionally and personally,” she continued. “This is what makes the NPS community so special. Take care, be safe and we’ll get through this as a team!”
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