Finding Opportunities in Challenging Times

The University Gets Creative with Teaching, Learning, and Connecting during the Pandemic

This might be an unusual academic year, but it isn’t surprising that Coker University’s faculty are getting creative with their approaches to teaching, learning, and connecting with students. One of the many benefits of a Coker University education is smaller class sizes, making it significantly easier for faculty to engage students through innovative instruction.

Coker’s P.L. and Belle Wolfe McCall School of Visual and Performing Arts is using innovative mediums to teach––dancers and theatre students are creating space by keeping six feet apart in boxes outlined on studio and theater floors, art classes are being held outside, and the music department is teaching brass, woodwind, and voice lessons over a CCTV system, which allows for a faster and higher quality transmission than Zoom, with the instructor in one room and the student in another. 

Dr. Rachel Manspeaker, associate professor of mathematics, recently teamed up with colleagues to redesign the curriculum for Coker’s introductory-level math class, what is now MAT 103 focusing on quantitative literacy.

“This class is much more focused on understanding what numbers are and what they’re used for...It’s more practical mathematics,” says Manspeaker. “We talk about things like when are fractions and decimals used in real life and why do we have letters in mathematics sometimes. We're going to go on to basic modeling, how we can project and predict the future using math, financial literacy so making a budget, paying taxes, investing...things they will actually use.” 

Like many classes this academic year, MAT 103 is taught in a hybrid format––each section of 18 students is split into two groups of nine each, and the groups alternate between in-person and online instruction. The weekly online component of the class is completed prior to the in-person sessions through instructional videos created by Coker’s mathematics faculty.  

In addition to the instructional videos and in-class time, MAT 103 also incorporates a couple of math-themed games––Go Fraction and Charty Party––that can be played virtually and/or in-person. The hybrid format allows any student who can’t be in class to easily keep up via online video instruction. 

Dr. Julia Klimek, professor of English and director of Coker’s interdisciplinary studies program, is using a pandemic-approved approach for students who need to earn required study away credit. Dr. Klimek’s single-credit hour course, IS299: SC Parks, requires students to visit three parks on their own time, providing a flexible solution and individualized small adventure during a time when travel opportunities are limited. 

Dr. Jen Heusel, associate professor of communication, moved her office hours outside by setting up a blanket and some backjack chairs. “I love it, and have had students visit me at every opportunity, which is three times a week for five hours total,” says Heusel. 

Coker’s history of innovative teaching includes its signature round table learning. Arriving at Coker in the 1980s, round table learning encouraged participation in class discussions. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated physical round tables in some classrooms, the spirit of active participation in conversation is still present. 

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