July 27, 2020
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the St. Mary’s University community has adapted — faculty are stepping up to deliver quality education to students from a distance.
Ramona Lampley, J.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, shared takeaways from her spring classes in a Q&A. Lampley joined St. Mary’s in 2012. She specializes in civil procedure, complex litigation, secured transactions and sales. She most recently taught Sales and Secured Transactions.
What was your approach in switching to online learning in a short period of time?
I already had experience teaching in an online environment and had attended both a St. Mary’s online certification training course and an advance training course. This experience and education enabled me to easily switch my class to an online format.
I used a hybrid of synchronous and asynchronous components, coupled with multiple assessments and a flipped classroom model. Essentially, I pre-recorded short lectures each week. Those lectures could be viewed by the student at any time during the week. They were coupled with a short “basic concepts” multiple choice quiz. Students watched the videos and completed the quizzes that week. Each week, I also held a 70-minute Zoom (a cloud-based videoconferencing platform) class in which we worked through problems applying the doctrinal law covered in the lectures.
What are some new teaching methods you’ve picked up along the way?
I’ve become much more apt in my use of Zoom and ability to engage students. I’ve learned that calling on a number of students in the Zoom classroom bolsters engagement and accountability. Additionally, I like to hang out in Zoom after class to engage in informal conversations with my students.
What has been your biggest area or opportunity for growth in teaching online thus far?
One thing that has been exceptionally successful is my use of discussion threads to provide individualized feedback and to afford law students consistent opportunities to engage in legal writing. I have seen an enormous improvement in legal writing skills in a short timeframe using this learning modality.
What has been most surprising?
What has been most surprising is how much joy I feel at seeing my students in Zoom each week. I think we’ve had to adapt to a new way of life, and those moments of seeing a face and smile become even more special. I also like seeing the “Zoombombing” by some of the children that are living with our students. They bring joy and remind us that flexibility and adaptation are key to surviving the challenges of this pandemic.
What has been the most beneficial experience of teaching online?
I think the most beneficial experience of teaching online has been to explore different modalities, such as the flipped classroom model or discussion questions, and to observe the new opportunities for learning that the online environment has delivered for our students.
Students look to you for guidance, for wisdom, especially during times of crisis. How have you managed your own challenges?
These are difficult times indeed. In March, we collectively adopted a “we just need to get through this” mentality. But we now find ourselves having to endure the reality that the pandemic is causing long-term consequences that will affect our learning environment this fall and maybe even into the spring. In one of the conferences I had with associate deans from across the country, an associate dean reminded us that many of the choices before us are not ideal. In fact, some are downright lousy. But we have to move forward and make the best choice in a series of less-than-awesome choices. I tried to use that to adjust my perspective.
We are living through a pandemic that is killing people, causing a significant burden to our health care system, shutting down primary schools and causing people to lose jobs. We cannot be wed to a sense of normalcy, but we must stay focused on doing the next right thing in the series of new challenges before us.
I try to maintain a sense of gratitude. I am grateful to still have a wonderful career that brings me professional joy. I am grateful to have my health. I am grateful that I got to spend more time with my children these past few months than I would have otherwise in our previously hectic world. I am grateful to interact with motivated and inspirational law students and colleagues who make amazing contributions to our community. I try to focus on those aspects that bring deep meaning to my life, and let go of the things we have lost.