by Maureen McGavin
Since Emory announced the move to remote teaching on March 11 due to COVID-19 precautions and social distancing, the Emory Libraries and LITS have jumped into high gear, preparing faculty for online course delivery so students can complete spring semester classes off-campus while buildings remain closed.
Various departments of the University’s Libraries and Information Technology Services have helped faculty and students during this time, from offering online Canvas workshops about remote teaching, to securing digital materials and preparing detailed LibGuides so faculty can find the items and help they need, to providing access to laptops and specialized software for students who need them.
Canvas, online workshops, and technology access
Students and their instructors already use the Canvas platform for classes – it’s how they communicate, turn in assignments and papers, take quizzes, and stay updated on grades. But with the move to remote teaching, there were a lot of Canvas features neither group had used often until now. The Teaching and Learning Technologies unit, part of the Libraries’ Academic Technology Services (ATS), has offered dozens of Canvas online workshops focused on remote teaching, online tools, and best practices.
Between March 11, when the university announced the shift to remote teaching, and March 23, the first day of online classes, over 600 faculty attended Canvas workshops, and 85 faculty took advantage of one-on-one consultations, according to Kim Braxton, associate dean of ATS. Popular workshops include “Canvas & Zoom Essentials for Remote Teaching” and “Canvas Analytics for Evaluating Student Engagement.”
“In the week leading up to March 23rd, we were running four or more online workshops a day,” she said. “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from faculty.”
ATS also provided support for students in the transition, including information about how to access many of the advanced software packages available in the Learning Commons and the MediaLab in the Music & Media Library. To date, more than 130 students have requested access to the special COVID-19 extended licensing for Adobe Creative Suite software. And MediaLab’s workshop training continues; one of the MediaLab student assistants recently led a workshop via Zoom on editing with Adobe Premiere for an upper-level health class. “We’re even continuing our workshops for students remotely,” Braxton said.
For those students who found themselves without access to a laptop, Student Digital Life has come to the rescue. “In partnership with the Emory Together fund, we’ve shipped 73 Chromebooks out to students who don’t have access to technology for remote learning,” Braxton said.
Librarians and digital resources
Since the announcement that Emory was moving to remote learning came during spring break, many students across campus found themselves without their textbooks. Prior to classes resuming, Emory’s librarians pulled together options for these students, ranging from free online textbooks offered by publishers to ebook versions of print books on course reserves. Librarians have continued to purchase ebooks, find streaming audio and video options for faculty, and provide information on collection resources for remote teaching and research. In addition, trials of new databases have been set up to expand the digital collections, and more than 130,000 ebooks have been temporarily added to discoverE, the library catalog. Librarians have also assisted with copyright questions as faculty moved to remote teaching.
Librarians have also expanded research guides in anthropology, African American studies, and nearly all subject areas with up-to-date library information, places to look for ebooks, online newspapers, digitized original source materials, and links to setting up consultations during virtual office hours. Librarians have taught library instruction sessions using Zoom, answered questions during classes via Zoom, and have been added to Canvas classes by faculty to help students with the course. Some librarians have flipped library instruction by creating videos of database demos viewed by the students prior to the Zoom class, so class time could be used to answer questions and address the students’ specific research needs.
“I’ve been hearing nothing but good things from our partners across campus about the great instructional support they’ve been getting from our librarians,” said Sarah Morris, head of instruction and engagement for the Emory Libraries.
According to Lisa Macklin, associate dean for research, engagement, and scholarly communications, “The administrators and faculty across campus have been very appreciative of all of the efforts by librarians in every Emory library and the great support from the Canvas team in this unprecedented move to remote teaching and learning.”
Meeting requests for physical items
Some faculty and students may still need access to physical materials in the library, so library staff members worked on the best way to meet those needs while maintaining social distancing and minimizing direct contact.
Three teams – Core Services, Access Services, and Research, Engagement, and Scholarly Communications – worked quickly to redesign the request process. When a request for an item comes in, a staff member conducts a search for a digital version from a variety of sources, either available for free or for purchase by the library. If a digital version is not available, a search is conducted for the physical item. Once the item is located, staff reach out to the requester to arrange for pick up or shipment of the requested item.
“The redesign of the request process was an extremely collaborative process across several departments in the Libraries,” said Kim Copenhaver, director of Access Services. “Our staff actively looked for solutions to meet the needs of our users during this time of social distancing and remote learning.”