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From Classroom to Online: One Professor’s Solution



If you’re into higher education news at all, the most frequent words you’ll see these days are “change” and “uncertainty.” Who could have predicted the situation colleges now face?

I have always been interested in how people deal with change. The added element of uncertainty makes dealing with change even more interesting, although “interesting” may not be the most appropriate word those being forced to change would use to describe their experience.

Perhaps the biggest top-level change colleges have had to make — and college students have had to endure — is the transition from in-person classes to online teaching. It’s clear by now that students are (understandably) unhappy about this for multiple reasons. Faculty, in many cases, are also unhappy about having to uproot their carefully planned syllabi and make the hasty switch to distance learning, all while myriad other changes and uncertainties have swirled about them.

One Faculty Member Forges New Path

I was curious about how professors went about the task of suddenly shifting their teaching gears to adapt to the new reality. So I did a search and found a great example of how one faculty member handled this.

In a article, ‘Nobody Signed Up for This.’ College Professor Drastically Rethinks Syllabus to Prioritize Human Need Amid Coronavirus, Meagan McCluskey writes about Brandon Bayne, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and shares how he dealt with his challenge of change and uncertainty.

Bayne’s 2020 spring semester course, Religion in America, changed suddenly on March 11 when he got the news that all UNC-CH courses were transitioning to online status. Obviously, he knew that his approach would have to change dramatically. “I was sitting down to try to figure out how to accomplish the same learning objectives with different assignments and it became clear that we couldn’t simply take what we had designed for the course online,” he said. “Doing a final exam in the way we had it structured, which was a pretty traditional final exam, wasn’t going to work the same way. Taking attendance at recitation wasn’t going to work. We had to really adjust our whole mentality.”

In order to get input from his students about the most effective way to alter his approach in light of the stark strictures now placed upon him, he surveyed his class, but found significant disparities among his students in regard to their ability to engage in online instruction. “They were coming from very different and diverse contexts. Some of them felt quite secure. They had high-speed internet. They were largely bored and looking forward to getting back to a new normal,” he said. “Others were asked to travel home to Singapore and India and Brazil and were trying to figure out what that would look like. And then over 15 percent of them said that they didn’t have access to high-speed internet, that they’d be relying on phones and going to other locations to try to access the internet.”

Enter the Concept of Mutual Flexibility

Both teacher and students had been asked to deal with sudden change in 2020. Shortly before spring semester began, Bayne’s mother was diagnosed with aggressive cancer and died shortly thereafter. In understandable mourning, he asked his students for their consideration and to be flexible with him as he taught and grieved.

While processing all this, internally and externally, Bayne tried to conjure a revised syllabus for Religion in America that took into consideration student circumstances, teaching limitations and the ongoing uncertainties of the coronavirus world. He imagined something that “really informed the principles about prioritizing ourselves as humans and being flexible and recognizing that we can’t fully know where this is all going.”

He posted his syllabus solution, which went viral, on Facebook. “I expected it might resonate with other people teaching religious studies, but to start getting emails from professors of music, from high school Spanish teachers, from elementary school teachers in New Mexico, that made it clear that there was something that was resonant to all educators who were struggling.”

Here’s what Bayne’s “Adjusted Syllabus” looks like:

From classroom to online: One professor's solution
Brandon L. Bayne, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

An Overall Holistic Approach

In my view, this is the product of a thoughtful, compassionate soul. I was particularly impressed with the emphasis on a holistic approach that tends to buffer the impact of sudden change. Specifically, I love the phrases “Nobody signed up for this,” “The humane approach is the best option,” and “We cannot just do the same thing online.” Those are words of wisdom, understanding and insight.

In regard to the spirit of his adjusted syllabus, Bayne notes, “There’s been, particularly in [the religious studies] field, a really strong emphasis on separating ourselves from the subjects that we study, and I think this moment is one of a series of moments in both my life and the lives of my students where that’s just not going to fly. That doesn’t mean that we need to inject [our personal beliefs] into the classroom. I wouldn’t advocate for that. But I think the idea that we’re some sort of disembodied brain that’s only engaged in intellectual exercises is problematic.”

As for holisticism, he embraces the concept of cura personalis, a Latin phrase meaning “care for the whole person.” “It means care for the entire individual and this comes from the sense that you need to tailor education to the unique needs, situations, challenges and gifts of the people you’re in relationship to.”

I wish all teachers, college or high school, would embody this approach to leadership in the classroom, or, as it is now, over the internet. One of my personal philosophies maintains that challenges offer opportunity. Brandon Bayne knows this too, apparently, and his resourceful adjustments to his course has turned a frustrating situation into a moment of empathetic exploration and enlightenment for his students.

By: Dave Berry
Title: From Classroom to Online: One Professor’s Solution
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 05 May 2020 13:44:35 +0000

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Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid



Many families are facing new financial challenges in light of the coronavirus emergency, and College Confidential has fielded dozens of questions on this topic recently. To address those queries, we hosted a webinar on April 9 entitled “Paying for College Amid Changes Due to the Impact of COVID-19.”

During the event, moderated by Aaron Murphy, manager of learning and development with Inside Track, the following panelists offered their perspectives on the issue:

  • Denise Trusty, director of financial aid with Morehead State University
  • Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz, associate vice president of college partnerships with RaiseMe
  • Amy Nelson, director of sales at International Scholarship and Tuition Services
  • Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank.

Check out the following topics that the panelists discussed, along with their views of how things may unfold amid the financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

Family Finances Changed? Contact Your Schools

If you plan to start college in the fall as a freshman — or return to school as an existing student — and your financial situation has changed since you applied for financial aid, you should contact the colleges on your list immediately. Financial aid departments can consider appeals for more money, but must base these decisions on each individual student’s situation, Trusty said.

“I know with Morehead State, where I work, we will be doing professional judgement calls on all students who say they’ve been affected,” she noted. “We will reach out to those students to see what we can do to help them maybe obtain additional funding, additional grants, scholarships, whatever they would be eligible for. We do professional judgment all the time for our students, because things happen all the time. This year will be an especially large amount of those, I’m sure, but those are up to individual schools to make that call for their students.”

In addition, she added, the Department of Education has set aside over $6 billion for additional grants and scholarships that the universities will be able to use. “Currently, I don’t know how that’s all going to play into this,” Trusty said. “So that will be up to each individual university on how they lay those out. I know it will be beneficial, I just don’t know how available that will be to each student.”

Keep in mind that schools are accustomed to reviewing financial aid appeals, and they all have processes in place for to do so. “It is really, really important to know that schools typically leave a budget from 10 percent to 20 percent or so of their financial aid dollars for what would be called a professional judgment bucket,”Javice said. “Therefore, there is additional money to be had, and it’s up to you to request it. You should approach your school as soon as you know you might need more money, and be prepared to show supporting documentation demonstrating how your finances are different from when you filed your FAFSA initially. This might require proof of a job loss, medical bills, a cut in pay or another such issue, Javice said.

In addition, if another school gave you a better financial offer, you can petition the school that gave you the lower offer for more money, Javice noted. “This typically works better for private institutions versus public state schools, given the fact that they have a little bit more discrepancy and more dollars to put to work in terms of a tuition discount,” she added. “This is solely up to the school on a case by case basis.” In some cases, the money is distributed on a first come, first serve timeline, so don’t wait if you know you need more aid.

Although financial aid can be a stressful topic, try not to be emotional when you request more money, Javice added. You’ll get a lot further by having organized documentation to present than you would by getting angry or upset, she noted.

Consider Outside Scholarships

The coronavirus situation has changed plans not only for incoming freshmen, but also for current college students, Nelson said. “Organizations are stepping up and trying to find ways to provide additional scholarship opportunities this year,” she noted. Students should be proactive in seeking those options.

Raise Me is offering new micro-scholarships for students who are seeking additional funding sources, Kalinkewicz said. In addition, she encourages students to ask colleges for more time to make decisions, even if the school hasn’t extended its deposit process. You can always try and request additional time to get your financial aid package right, she noted.

Finding more money is not relegated to younger students, Javice added. “Adult learners comprise the biggest group of people actually going to college today,” she noted. It’s very common for people to be seeking new types of skills and going back to college to gain additional degrees. Financial aid is available to adult learners, and they may even get aid to pay such costs as rent, she added. In addition, they can seek outside scholarships or employer-matching funds to pay for their educations.

Not Necessarily Too Late to File FAFSA

Students who didn’t file a FAFSA already should do that as soon as possible so you can get access to financial aid funds, Javice said. Federal FAFSA deadlines are usually in June, but states make their own deadlines for state aid. Some states, such as New Jersey, have moved their deadlines back for this year, so check to make sure you stay on top of your deadlines.

And if you file for financial aid and you decide you don’t want it, you can always decline the financial offer or portions of that offer, Nelson said. Your best bet is to apply so you can take what you need and decline any amounts you don’t need. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should apply anyway because you could be surprised at what you’re offered. “You really need to complete that [FAFSA] process every year,” Nelson said. “The process is very easy, and jobs can come and go. It’s your safety net and you want to make sure you’ve completed it. It makes it a whole lot easier when situations like this arise.”

Some colleges also have supplemental applications to fill out for particular types of aid, so always reach out to your financial aid office for information on which documentation you should be completing, Kalinkewicz said.

Could Families — Not Schools — Be in the Driver’s Seat?

Because many merit scholarships are based on test scores and GPAs, some high school juniors are concerned that they won’t have access to those in the coming year. With test dates being canceled and grades moving to pass/fail, they fear they won’t meet the criteria to earn such scholarships.

“It’s clear to me that colleges and universities know the extraordinary circumstances we’re under,” Nelson said. “All schools are leaning forward and considering all options as the situation develops. I would continue to encourage juniors to stay engaged and stay informed.” You should also watch to see what happens with test dates, she said. The ACT and SAT dates could change, and some schools may forego the need for a test score altogether, she added.

In addition, some merit scholarships that have traditionally been based on test scores may become test optional, Kalinkewicz noted.

Keep in mind that in many cases, families are in the driver’s seat rather than having the colleges be in charge, Javice said. Some schools have lost revenue and are very eager for students right now, “so if you are scared because you thought you could never get into a specific school from an admission criteria standpoint, this is your year to stretch, this is your year to think about the schools that are your reach category and go for it, because schools need the money and need the students. So the power that used to be in an admissions office is in you, the student or the family’s hands,” she said.

She also advises juniors to request application waivers from schools to save the $50 to $100 or so per application that they would normally pay. The schools may say no, but it won’t hurt to ask, she advised. “Persistence is key when dealing with schools,” Javice noted.

Federal Student Loans Payment Suspended

As many families are aware, payments on federal student loans are automatically suspended from March 13 through September 30, 2020 thanks to the government’s CARES Act. This is essential to keep in mind, particularly for families that have multiple children in various stages of the college process.

“You will stop paying your loans and you will have zero interest from now until September 30, and that’s important for parents to know,” Nelson said regarding existing federal student loans. “If you had an auto draft, the auto draft has been shut off and will not continue. You can, however, continue to make those payments if you’d like, and any interest you had before March 13, once that interest is paid up, all your payments will go directly toward your principal.” She advises families with federally-backed loans to check with their loan servicing agents, because they have a lot of information for both parent and student borrowers on how the CARES Act will impact payments for the next six months.

Student Job Gone? Colleges Might Help

For students who expect to earn money via part-time or full-time work to pay for college, but can’t do so due to the coronavirus, colleges may have resources to help. “There are many colleges and universities that have put together emergency grants for students to cover expenses that they were maybe not expecting because of COVID-19,” Nelson said. “They are making accommodations to try and make up for that lost income for students.”

Trusty said Morehead State is continuing to pay students who were on federal work-study. “If they had a job, we are still paying them right now as if they were working, although they are not. In the summer, those funds will be flipped over to emergency grant funds. So we will make sure that our students are covered and can live as if they were employed with the work-study position.”

Some colleges have even made remote work available to students, Kalinkewicz added. Therefore, contact your financial aid office to determine if any accommodations are available to make up for lost student income whenever possible.

Consider Other Options to Save

If you are seeking ways to save money on college, you should also consider other resources, whether that means less expensive colleges, in-state options or potentially transferring down the road, Janice said. You can also save money by taking classes at a community college to pay a lower cost for your credits that can be transferred to a four-year college later.

“If you have that target institution in mind — maybe you’ve already been admitted there but your family has determined a year of community college will really help stretch things further — work on articulation agreements or a plan so you are taking the right classes that actually have the ability to transfer toward the degree you want at your target institution, not necessarily just as credit,” Kalinkewicz said.

In addition, many colleges offer merit aid for transfer students, she added. So always look for every potential financial aid and scholarship resource to best maximize your package and allow your dollars to stretch as far as possible.

Resource: To review the entire hour-long webinar, you can watch the replay here.

Share Your Thoughts

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!

By: Torrey Kim
Title: Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2020 15:22:20 +0000

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