Three Iowa State professors share experience with COVID-19

Abhay Mishra, associate professor of information systems and business analytics.

Audrey Holtkamp

Iowa State professors had to convert over 6,000 courses into online classes during the spring 2020 semester.

Three Ivy College of Business professors share how they handled the transition to online teaching in the spring 2020 semester during unprecedented times in academics.

Abhay Mishra, associate professor of information systems and business analytics, had to assist his kids’ transition to online learning while reimagining two information systems analysis courses he was teaching.

Professors couldn’t require synchronous video meetings during the spring semester because not every student had access to reliable Wi-Fi or proper bandwidth capabilities. Mishra said his goal was to be empathetic to his students and their situations while also retaining the quality of the course and rigor of the material.

“So I thought maybe students will have enough bandwidth so that they could go to a coffee house to participate in a synchronous [Canvas] discussion,” Mishra said.

Mishra posted the material for the course in multiple forms, like voice recordings and slide shows, for students with low bandwidth. He also allowed students to submit assignments in any format that worked best for them.

After implementing synchronous Canvas discussions, Mishra asked his students for feedback and said he received overwhelmingly positive reviews with some students even saying his method was working better than all of their other classes.

“I was lucky last semester,” Mishra said. “Both sections I taught had really good students. They were grounded, they were invested and interested.”

Kayla Sander, teaching professor of accounting, taught a 200-level accounting course and 400-level auditing course that were heavily discussion-based with interactive lectures.

Sander already had experience teaching the 200-level course online over the summer, and she said she felt lucky that she already had the course materials prepared online.

“This allowed for much more time and effort dedicated to virtual student interaction and one-on-one help,” Sander wrote in an email. “We had a great, passionate, student-focused team, and everyone adapted really quickly.”

For the 400-level auditing course, Sander focused on material the students needed for passing the Certified Public Accountant exam, and she managed to have the course still be based on group projects, even when students could be thousands of miles away from each other.

She said she made sure to be flexible to accommodate everyone and would let the students manage their group work among themselves so they could find what worked for them.

“I didn’t want to lose the relationship and dynamic I had established with my students, so in my emails to my classes, I continued to share silly stories about my kids,” Sander said in the email.

Sander said she did this in hopes that it would make her students feel comfortable with reaching out to her if they needed help.

“I have received so many nice emails and comments over video chats from students related to my courses, and I am always so appreciative and humbled that they reach out to share their positive feedback,” Sander said. “It really shows the character of our students.”

Tingting Liu, assistant professor of finance, was teaching a course that involved a 10-day trip to Spain last academic year. She said about a month before spring break, the class was hoping they could still go, but the trip was canceled three days before departure.

Liu decided to base the class project on studying the effects of COVID-19 on the firms they were originally going to visit by using public knowledge as their resource.

“I wanted my students to learn as much as possible, so we used the same forecasting methodology and implemented that to forecast financial statements [and] financial performance,” Liu said.

She said she received positive feedback from students after the semester, which made her feel confident her students still gained a lot from the course.

“That was a really good lesson to teach students when facing such challenges that we’ve never experienced before,” Liu said. “[Figuring out] how to solve the problem, that’s really valuable experience.”

These three professors all received the spring 2020 Teaching Innovation Award and $1,000, which was funded by a donor.

“Across the university, the faculty did an amazing job [of] overnight tailoring their courses to offer a good online experience for students,” Sander said. “I feel so honored to receive the award, but at the same time, I feel like everyone earned it.”