Creating community during the coronavirus crisis: Vincennes University students and faculty are staying connected virtually - External Relations
Creating community during the coronavirus crisis: Vincennes University students and faculty are staying connected virtually
March 27, 2020
VINCENNES, Ind. - Humans are social creatures. Relationships and
being surrounded by familiar faces are key to our well-being.
Vincennes University is unique because of our small classroom sizes,
hands-on learning, and the special connection our team has with
students. In the era of social distancing, VU students, faculty, and
staff are coming together and creating a community virtually, and
they’re having fun with it.
VU’s Information Technology Department is using
Slack, which is essentially a chat room, to keep students and faculty
connected, and they’re not only discussing coursework. Earlier this
week, assistant professors Greg Hirsch and Lorrie Ann Thompson asked
students how their pets felt about stay-at-home orders. Students
responded by sharing their pet photos and thoughts. Assistant
professor Kris Locklin engaged students by sharing a coronavirus
toilet paper calculator with the group. When students do attendance
check-ins, they’re sharing information like what shows they’rewatching
and what they’re doing in their free time.
Connections and interactions like these are
erasing the barriers caused by physical distance due to the
coronavirus pandemic, which has led VU and other institutions to
finish the semester via remote learning.
“It’s a nice community that makes you feel close together even though
we are our separate ways right now,” said VU IT student Drew Davis. “I
like in-person classes because I like getting to know my classmates,
getting to joke around with them before class, and talking to them
about what they have going on, and to be able to do that on Slack and
have that option to bring us all together into an online world is very
nice. The thing I really enjoy is that social interaction and even
though we’re apart, we’re still able to get it.”
Davis, who lives in
Washington, Ind. and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Information
Technology, is one of many students who are also staying connected
with friends and classmates using group text messaging.
Creating a community online was a priority for IT Department Chair
and Associate Professor Jaci Lederman and the rest of the IT department.
“We knew we would be fine as far as technology goes and getting our
students to use technology, but we wanted to make sure we put
something in place that would allow our students on campus to really
get that sense of community that they were going to be missing,”
It has been a
smooth transition to remote teaching for VU’s Information Technology
faculty. Since many teach both in-person and online courses, the
department’s lecture videos, resources and course content were already online.
“That allowed us to focus in on what are we going to do about the
sense of community,” Lederman said. “On campus that’s why students go
to college on campus is for that community. For our IT students, we
call it birds of feather flocking together.
“I am so proud of my faculty for jumping in and making this all work.”
Around 125 IT students are using Slack to communicate and faculty
monitors the channel Mondays through Saturdays. There’s a main channel
plus channels for each course.
“The Slack channel is a great way for the VUIT program's students to
interact and share information as well as have a good time,” VU
student Evan Wagoner said. “Slack makes it easy for students to ask
the professors as well as other students in the class questions. It
also allows us to maintain that feeling of actually being in class
with the class group chats. Slack keeps the students and faculty more connected.”
VU faculty and staff are using multiple platforms to stay connected
with students like Wagoner, who lives in Shoals, Ind. and is working
toward an associate degree in Information Technology. They’re
communicating via virtual office hours using Blackboard Collaborate.
Social media is also helping them stay in touch.
Wagoner has worked
on assignments with Lederman using Slack by sharing images with her.
She’s also provided him access to Blackboard Collaborate, which allows
her to see his screen and better answer his questions.
“It is very important to me to be connected to other students and the
VU faculty,” Wagoner said. “It is important from the learning
standpoint because I can ask my professors questions as well as being
able to have group discussions with other students about difficult assignments.”
Maintaining social interaction is hard when people are under
stay-at-home orders, must remain six feet apart in gatherings of 10 or
fewer people, and with basically everything closed. However, VU
students, staff, and faculty are proving it can be done and done with fun.
“I had a couple of online courses before, but in those online
classes, I didn’t really feel connected to the rest of the class,”
Davis said. “You may see names in the class that you know, but there
wasn’t really a group communication. The way Professor Lederman and
the IT staff is doing it, it makes it feel like we’re closer to being
in an actual classroom than your typical online class.”
We at Vincennes University encourage learning environments that allow
for distancing while still being social.
Together, VU is pulling through this!
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY - Indiana’s First College
VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper, the
Aviation Technology Center and American Sign Language program in
Indianapolis, Early College Career and Technical Education Centers,
and additional sites such as the Gene Haas Training and Education
Center in Lebanon, the Logistics Training and Education Center in
Plainfield, and the Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing
and Logistics in Fort Branch. VU offers online degrees and classes to
students who need access to college courses and flexibility through
its Distance Education.
A leader in dual credit and career and technical education statewide,
VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.
In addition to offering a wide range of associate degree and
certificate programs, VU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in
technology, homeland security, nursing, secondary education programs
in mathematics and science, and special education/elementary education.
VU enrolls students from throughout Indiana, 36 other states, and 21
other countries. Tuition and fees are the lowest among Indiana
campuses with residence halls. VU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Founded in 1801, VU is Indiana’s first college and is the only
college in the nation founded by an individual who would later become
President of the United States. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S.
President, founded VU while serving as governor of the Indiana
Territory. More information is available at www.vinu.edu.