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With the fall semester fast approaching, we know first-year and returning University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students and their parents are all wondering what to expect in the months ahead. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share updates from our college deans about the latest programs, new faculty and staff  joining UWO and how everyone is preparing for a safe and successful 2020-21 academic year amid the continuing pandemic.

We’re kicking off this Titans Return series with Linda Haling, dean of the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS).

What did faculty members and staff in your college learn about teaching online this past spring that may inform how hybrid or online classes will be conducted in the fall?

Many faculty within COEHS have previous experience developing and teaching online courses. Despite the abrupt transition from in-person to completely online classes this past spring, faculty and instructional academic staff were able to successfully deliver their course content for the remainder of the spring semester.

When asked what was learned this past spring, faculty and staff in the special and early childhood education department shared that online real-time instruction can provide equity in the classroom for students with different learning and communication needs.

For students with physical disabilities, online learning can provide access more similar to students without disabilities as they can be in class without the extra challenges brought by inaccessible facilities. Students who are hard of hearing or deaf can have easier access to captioning and speech-to-text that can improve their experience with the majority of interaction that occurs during classroom instruction. For some students who have anxiety or are shy about participating verbally in class, the chat feature in online real-time instruction can provide different options for engagement. Certainly there are difficulties with online learning, but for some students, there can be greater access than in our traditional classrooms.

Additionally, like our students, we embraced the need to be flexible under the circumstances and to meet the challenges we faced head on. We learned we have amazing students who also embraced flexibility and rose to the challenge. For example, faculty members Marguerite Penick-Parks and Stephanie Bernander helped to create and organize an e-tutoring program for families in Wisconsin and beyond. Our clinical students in teacher education never hesitated and simply volunteered to participate.

How are faculty members in your college preparing for the fall semester?

With the advanced notice of delivery format, faculty members are able to develop their courses so that students will have a high-quality experience. There is no doubt that preparing for multiple delivery formats is time-consuming, but we are making every effort to be fully prepared for all possibilities. First and foremost, we want to make sure that everyone feels safe.

What’s new in your college for fall 2020?

We are very excited to welcome two new faculty members to COEHS. Teysha Bowser will join the professional counseling department. Bowser graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a doctorate in counselor education and supervision. Her dissertation is titled Gendered Racial Microaggressions, Racial Battle Fatigue and Intergenerational Learning with Three Generations of Black Women.

Hassan Elannani will join the Educational Leadership and Policy Department. Elannani earned a doctorate in educational administration at Illinois State University and has taught at Kean and Zayed Universities.

This fall we will begin accepting students into our newly approved K-12 technology education program. The delivery of this major will involve faculty from UWO and Fox Valley Technical College in the creation of a model partnership for teacher preparation that draws upon non-overlapping strengths from both institutions.

What advice would you give students who may perhaps be on the fence about starting college or returning during this time?

Just like every other year, we are very excited to have the students back in the fall to continue their education. Assistant professor Bernander said it best when she described education as essential. My advice is to prioritize your college education for the benefit of our communities. Teachers, counselors and human services leaders are in critical need, especially during the uncertainties of the country’s crisis.

What are your own personal thoughts/goals about returning in the fall?

My goal is to do whatever I can to ensure that faculty, staff and students have what they need for a successful semester.

Learn more about the College of Education and Human Services at UW Oshkosh.