Amidst the COVID-19 global crisis, universities the world over are scrambling to move classes online. Fortunately, IE University has more than 20 years’ experience in cutting-edge online learning, and has been able to swiftly move 100% of classes to an online format. We sat down with a professor to hear what the experience has been like from a faculty member’s perspective.
Santiago Rodriguez is a Venezuelan lawyer with a J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law and an LL.M. from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. Santiago works at the international arbitration practice group at Uria Menendez, and also teaches Legal Thought (Philosophy of Law).
How did IE University respond to the COVID-19 crisis and how has the transition to online classes been?
In my opinion, IE University has been very efficient and quick in such an unprecedented situation. Before I even had time to ask questions, IE University had already sent me several informative emails that clarified many of the questions I had. Every additional question I had about how to carry out my classes online was answered within minutes. Training sessions were offered, although I didn’t take any. However, I was still able to carry out my classes following the instructions provided in the emails without any trouble.
What do you think about the technological platform IE University is using for online classes?
I think Adobe Connect has been useful. The students haven’t complained so far regarding the quality of sound or video. I’ve also worked with the tools offered on the campus website, such as the Discussion Board to hold online forums. The quality of the debates in the online forum has been high, which tells me the students are learning as much as they were in the regular classes.
Do you feel that students are engaging positively with the online class format?
I do feel that by using alternative tools such as the online forum there has been positive engagement with the students. I also hold Q&A sessions during class using the chat room available on the Adobe Connect platform. The students have told me that they find the campus forums preferable to the chat room for debates, so I have separated the chat room from the discussion forums for different purposes: the chat room is limited to Q&A sessions, while the discussion forum is to debate about different issues discussed in class. The students seem happy with this approach because their level of engagement on both platforms has been quite high.
Additionally, I’ve been sending interesting readings to the students to keep them entertained and distracted from the virus situation. These readings have been about different issues that are unrelated to the class but still useful for them, and the students seem to be enjoying them.
What have you learned from this experience? Do you think it’s important to foster online tools? Is the future heading towards online platforms?
I have learned how to keep the students engaged in a more difficult setting. It is not easy to capture students’ attention through online classes, so it has been a challenging experience. I’ve had to resort to additional tools (such as the chat room or the discussion forums on the campus website) to keep the students engaged, given that my class was very dynamic. However, this experience has been quite useful, and I believe online education will grow after this, eventually becoming mainstream. Therefore, I think that being early adopters of this up-and-coming educational system will likely give the professors (and the university) a competitive advantage over other institutions.
Our professors’ support has been crucial during this time of transition, and we thank all of our faculty for facilitating the change in the smoothest way possible.