Online classes through the eyes of professor Dennis Neiman

@Gal Benzadon

Over the last few weeks, our professors at IE University have had to undergo rapid change and start adjusting to online teaching so that students don’t miss out on their education.

During this time, we have three main priorities: to protect your health, to optimize communication, and to remain active in the academic sphere. Thanks to 20 years of experience in online education, we have been able to conduct over 30,000 virtual sessions so far, with 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students participating from 140 countries.

We have interviewed Dennis Neiman, a Bachelor in Communication and Digital Media professor, who tells us about his experience with transitioning from face-to-face classes to virtual sessions.

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Ohio, raised in Chicago, and studied psychology and advertising at the University of Illinois. I worked in advertising in Chicago before I came to Madrid, and since then, I’ve been working in online marketing for 27 years in paid media and innovation. Right now, I have the great pleasure of teaching Multimedia Narrative and Interactive Design at IE University.

How did IE University manage to work with the situation during the outbreak of COVID-19 and the change to online classes?

I often work online with groups in meetings and teleconferences and know the difficulties involved. I was very pleased with how prepared IE University was, and with the ease of the transition to online classes. The Adobe Platform is robust and very easy to use and I find the variety of different modes of interactions with the students sufficient to keep them engaged.

What do you think about the technological platforms IE University is using for online classes?

So far so good. Classes have to be prepared ahead of time in order for them to be dynamic. For example, creating shared documents where various students can contribute is an easy method of working together online. I believe that the Adobe Platform, combined with Google Docs and Trello, gives a workshop/deliverable-based class all the tools necessary to succeed online.

Do you feel that there is positive engagement between the online class format and students?

For students today, being online is the default state of mind. By bringing classes online, we are bringing education to a channel that was previously used for mostly social and entertainment activities.

Tell us what you have learned from this experience.

There is no doubt that this experience is a tectonic shift to a life that is, at this time, almost 100% online. Not just a social life, but all parts: home, work, school, and leisure for at least the next two weeks. As of today, online tools are the norm, not the exception. And it remains to be seen how this norm continues in the future.

Is there anything else you want to add?

My students have been exceptional in their decorum and agility in light of this situation. They are showing up to class and participating at a level that makes me believe that they are not to be deterred by this event or any other in their future. For example, we did a podcast exercise just before the school closures, and we had 100% attendance combining online and offline presence! The work produced, in just a few hours and using only mobile phones, was astoundingly good. And just a week later I was standing in an empty classroom, in an empty building, eating Haribo, and running a class on a giant tactile screen as these podcasts chattered from the speaker. At the same time, I was admiring comments on the chat which scrolled along the bottom like a slow waterfall of text. It was, without a doubt, a unique experience that I will never forget.

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Dennis Neiman’s story shows how IE University has been able to overcome the lockdown challenge, and how online classes have been implemented across all programs. We have been able to effectively undergo this transition in an incredibly short amount of time. This is especially thanks to our IT staff and academic departments, who have helped all of our teachers, students, and staff to collaborate completely online in just a matter of days. We decided to adapt our classes to an online format for two reasons: to ensure that everyone in our community stays healthy and to maintain our educational offering while continuing to meet the highest standards possible, despite the challenges posed by current circumstances.