COLUMBUS, Miss. -- Kelly Hollowell is up for the challenge.

Ordinarily, teaching math online wouldn’t be Hollowell’s first option, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced instructors throughout the country to make numerous changes. For Hollowell and her colleagues at Mississippi University for Women, that means preparing ways to make an online educational experience a reality for the fall 2020 semester.

“There will be challenges teaching math in an online format,” said Hollowell, a Title III intermediate math developer. “Student engagement is critical when building a foundation for mathematical concepts.”
The W’s Campus Renewal Plan extended the period of time for students to move into on-campus housing. The process will begin Wednesday, Aug. 12, and will end Sunday, Aug. 16. Classes will begin Monday, Aug. 17, so instruction and final examinations can end before the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, there will be no Fall Break.

Classes will be offered in-person, online (mainly asynchronous, but some synchronous) and in hybrid formats to allow flexibility for remote learning when needed, including the possibility of fully online semester if it is necessary. Synchronous learning is online or distance education that happens in real time, while asynchronous learning occurs through online channels without real-time interaction.

Hollowell said she plans to engage students by allowing them to collaborate in weekly topic discussions and to interact during synchronous online lesson presentation and virtually in small group study sessions. She will encourage students to take advantage of the three peer mentors who will be available to support them. Peer mentors are students who support intermediate students academically, with a strong focus on math, and help them adjust to college. This concept is part of the Title III, Enhancing Student Success Program, which is at the end of its second year of implementation.

Hollowell will stream live lectures/lessons and post recorded sessions and video-guided lessons for students in my classes. She didn’t use this approach earlier this year.

Hollowell had concerns about equitable internet access and technology for synchronous meetings in the spring, but she had students who met in small groups for a few question-and-answer sessions. Student feedback from these meetings was positive and played a role in her decision to plan such activities for this fall.

During the spring 2020 semester, classes at The W were scheduled to reconvene Monday, March 16, but the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), which oversees the state of Mississippi’s eight public colleges and universities, extended spring break for another week and pushed the start of classes back to March 23 in an effort to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. IHL also announced universities would transition to alternate methods of instruction, which included online classes and remote access.
Hollowell said it will be crucial to communicate with students so they know their instructors will be available virtually just as they would as be face to face. That communication is a key component of the Title III, Enhancing Student Success Program, because it enables Hollowell to identify issues so she can provide support for her students in any intermediate course, with an emphasis on intermediate mathematics. In previous semesters, she was able to provide extra support in the math lab, to establish a peer mentor program and to implement a web-based tutoring program for all students.

As the start of the fall semester closes in, Hollowell said she her number one priority will be to meet the needs of her students and to design her courses to help them grow.

“Addressing diverse learning styles is in the forefront of my planning for fall,” Hollowell said. “Students still seek the wisdom and advice of their professors. We all want to be connected by one common goal: to guide students to achieve academic excellence.”

Aug. 12, 2020
Contact: Adam Minichino
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