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Distance not disconnected: BW carries on with huge pivot to digital delivery

Jake Mantle introduces "Tank" in Angela Planisek’s BUS 358 Business Communication’s class on the Collaborate online platform.As business professor Angela Planisek logged in for the first time to conduct her spring business communications class online, she noticed some new faces among her students … furry faces.

In a nod to the new realities of a semester turned inside out and upside down by the global coronavirus pandemic, Planisek decided to go with the flow, inviting students to introduce their four-legged study-buddies to the students assembled by videoconferencing software.

Hiccups and can-do creativity

Such digital gathering spaces are up and running thanks to a massive effort, led by BW IT staff, to train, transition and support faculty and students in the move to remote learning in response to social distancing mandates.

The transition, which increased the online delivery of more than 1,500 course sections from 5% to 100%, took place over the span of an extended, two-week Spring Break.

While hiccups were inevitable in the roll-out of new technology and new approaches to teaching and learning, the BW community is adapting with can-do creativity.

Telehealth care

BW nursing students connect for clinicals with BW BSN faculty Stephanie SchumakerExamples of resourceful approaches are everywhere, even in subject areas that would seem to be the most demanding to deliver online.

BW's nursing program is rolling out new online clinical instruction, spearheaded by Dr. Danita Wabeke, director of clinical education.

Student feedback on the live, faculty-led distance format is positive with comments like, "I felt as if I was in the hospital with my patient right in front of me" and "In clinicals today, all six of us converged on one patient. The learning took me deeper than ever before."

The move to online delivery of Speech Clinic services is appreciated by both BW students and their clients as seen in this Facebook post from a grateful parent.Students studying communication disorders and speech-language pathology are continuing to learn by doing as they deliver free BW Speech Clinic services via faculty-monitored videoconferencing, another enormous and much-appreciated undertaking.

"We are now offering 135 sessions per week through a health care compliant telehealth system," said Christie Needham, communication sciences and disorders department chair. "Our students are learning a lot about administering telehealth and our clients are grateful to have the consistency and normalcy of their therapy sessions still in place."

Uplifting Arts

Music and performing arts programs are also rising to the distance challenge with live and recorded performances in the works that include plans for a virtual Conservatory of Music Bach Festival.

The BW music theatre class of 2020 will stage an online senior showcase.Meantime, the Conservatory's nationally acclaimed music theatre program has marshaled new resources to continue instruction and performance and will stage a virtual Senior Showcase to launch the careers of BW's future Broadway stars.

Music Theatre seniors are receiving remote coaching with one of NY's top agents, Ben Sands, and working to produce a blockbuster "highlights" reel to be released to the industry the day they would have been in New York for the annual Senior Showcase.

Freshmen music theatre students are recording one song each, in and around their homes, which will be edited together for a full online musical, while BW music theatre grad and multi-Emmy Award-winning producer Sainty Nelson and her husband, Eric Nelson, are providing TV/film coaching.

Even routine weekly class assignments have yielded improv moments worth sharing. Theatre and dance faculty member Heidi Glynias was delighted when Christine Smyth's hip-hop submission included her 90-year-old grandfather grooving into the video frame (and received permission to share).

Leading Ed Tech

Susan Finelli's graduate students are putting her ed tech lessons into practice as they move their own K-12 teaching online.In the BW School of Education, Susan Finelli's online professional development course on teaching technology is getting an immediate workout with K-12 students around the region as 35 educators in the class adapt their own teaching to a home environment.

"This remote learning out of nowhere is hard for not only my students but also their parents," wrote one teacher enrolled in the BW ed tech class.

"This class is greatly helping me with the transition." Another added, "Everything we have been learning is coming in handy!"

Finelli also compiled Distance Learning Resources for BW school partners and adapted the approaches for BW faculty, who found more than one faculty peer mentor during the transition.

Distance not disconnected

Beyond the virtual classrooms, student support services are also alive and well with digital and tele-resources to support academic success, from advising to career services to disability services. Health and social needs are also moving online with YouTube workouts, mental health telecounseling services, including new, 24/7 services from ProtoCall, and more.

Faith Sloop '20, who's wrapping up her senior year in a way she never imagined, says she has been impressed by the quick transition to online service delivery, bumps and all, but she's most grateful that the BW personal connection is still shining through.

"Though I have always felt understanding and empathy from my professors throughout my time at BW, the genuine, unbridled compassion with which they have approached this trying time has been heartwarming," said Sloop. "I am so grateful that, even though I won't be returning to campus to take a class again, my professors have somehow found a way to make me feel as if I never left at all!"

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