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UW College of Education Steps Up to Support Online Learning During COVID-19

July 6, 2020
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Mia Kim Williams

When the University of Wyoming, colleges and K-12 schools across the country transitioned to online instruction last spring, the UW College of Education stepped up to support its instructors, students and the larger K-12 state community.

“We created a support network that grew from the College of Education outward,” says Mia Kim Williams, an assistant professor of learning, design and technology.

She, along with several other UW professors, published the college’s work in the “Teaching, Technology and Teacher Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stories from the Field” e-book by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

“Our support initially was for the College of Education faculty to move their courses online,” she says. “It took on a grassroots, wraparound approach.”

College administrators deployed a survey and used the results to identify instructor and student needs. The resulting support network included technical and pedagogical support for faculty members and students in the form of one-on-one consultations and a newsletter.

“The newsletter allowed us to share videos from the teacher and student perspective that anyone could use as they needed the information,” Williams says. “We shared out our resources to whoever wanted them, and it grew from there.”

During the process, they created a plethora of resources that they are gathering in one central website for educators across the state. They plan to have the site live in August at www.uwyo.edu/education.

“We are formalizing some of that support and connecting more purposefully with the Wyoming Department of Education,” Williams says. “As educators look toward fall, we have resources ready to support individual needs and provide continuous professional development. This will help shift Wyoming education from emergency remote teaching to online or hybrid teaching.”

Williams and Joe Schroer, an assistant professional lecturer of educational psychology, also are co-hosting a WebEd Radio podcast series with Wheatland Middle School computer science teacher James Kapptie. The inaugural season will explore creating connected and engaging classrooms with a focus on virtual classrooms, open education resources, social-emotional learning, equity and access. Each 15-minute session will be hosted on the Zoom online platform and live-streamed to YouTube. Sessions will begin at 1 p.m. every Tuesday, starting July 7.

“This situation reminded me how resilient educators are,” Williams says. “Within days, all facets of Wyoming education were mobilizing to ensure that school would be a successful, essential entity as we responded to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

“The tools and processes used for learning, communicating and sharing in the online environment can be integrated into classrooms even when we no longer need to physically isolate ourselves,” she says. “I think we also -- as a broader community -- had an opportunity to reflect on the value of school, for learning, of course, but also as a human hub of support for our society economically, socially and emotionally.”

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