We Rockets are experiencing an Apollo 13 challenge. You remember the story. An oxygen tank failed two days into the flight to the moon. The astronauts and the technicians on the ground had to improvise workarounds to ration four days' worth of oxygen so the crew could loop around the moon and return home. McNick faculty and staff have collaborated inspirationally to design ways to keep McNick education and community flying while students are at home. The design leverages two of our advantages: small size and strong personalization. The main design consideration is that households will be under stress. For example, students might need to look after young siblings or ill parents at unpredictable times. This consideration led to our decision to enable students to learn at times that work best for them and their families rather than requiring students to attend online classes at fixed times. Teachers are providing clear directions about what to learn, ways to learn it, and ways to demonstrate learning via Schoology, our long-time headquarters for course materials. Students will connect with teachers in two ways. For individual communication, students and teachers will use McNick email, with teachers responding as soon as possible and no later than within 24 hours on class days. For real-time communication, students can communicate with teachers and classmates during
scheduled teacher office hours
via Microsoft Teams, which is new to students and teachers. Participation in office hours is optional for students. Teachers will be available to respond to questions from students who attend. Teachers might inform students in advance that a live discussion on a particular topic will take place during a segment of office hours.
Characteristically, faculty and staff are collaborating about ways to sustain student community and morale during these challenging times.
While distance learning is second-best to an in-person classroom, our design takes advantage of our small size and strong personalization. Students can learn at times and in ways effective for them. Teachers can interact with individual students in a more personalized way than they can when they are overseeing groups in classrooms. Our design provides resilience for households under stress.
Our in-house tech professionals Andy Ey and Emily Materna, two local consultants, and two national experts in distance education are providing invaluable guidance. The national experts reminded us that, "This is an extraordinary, temporary event that provides you an opportunity to call on your students to 'step up' and perform with discipline and focus, thus improving their learning skills. What a gift this would be for your students."
As we launch learning at home today, let's focus on assuming competence, best intentions, and diligence by all Rockets -- students and adults. In the spirit of Apollo 13, let's commit to ongoing communication about opportunities to improve in light of experience. Prayers and best wishes for the McNick community!