Instructors find winter session success through organization, preparation

Susan Fleming doesn't need to pour over assignments to determine instructors and students have hit their stride in the third winter session, which ends Friday. The marketing assistant teaching professor knows it because of the number of students seeking her help.

"The first time we had virtual learning, I had students in my virtual office all the time, and this semester I have met with two students in a class of 50," she said. "Students now know how to manage it better and instructors know how to organize it better."

Susan Fleming

Susan Fleming

Fleming has taught during each winter session and the experience has helped make her a stronger instructor, especially as online education expands, she said.

"Teaching winter session has accelerated my ability to update and keep content fresh," she said. "It has helped me see the online experience better from the students' perspective because it is so fast."

Fleming is the dozens of instructors who spent winter break helping the 1,600 undergraduate students who enrolled get one step closer to graduation. The intensive four-week effort requires instructors and students to be focused and prepared during a time of the year that includes two major holidays.

To accommodate students, who can be scattered across time zones, Fleming said she forgoes set office hours in favor of flexible online drop-ins or an email to schedule a time to talk.

Fleming teaches the 300-level Principles of Marketing, a course every business student must complete. She said the key is organization and having all course material available to the students on the first day. That allows students to work ahead and plan their time -- Fleming estimates students should spend three hours a day on course work -- so they can enjoy events during break.

Olga Mesropova

Olga Mesropova

World languages and cultures associate professor Olga Mesropova teaches From Gorbachev to Putin: Contemporary Russian Culture, a 300-level course. Connecting with students is important even in an asynchronous course. She said she regularly communicates with them through discussion boards to advance conversation and uses engaging material to talk about a topic that can change regularly.

"I have a segment where I translated several stand-up comedy monologues from the late 1980s to the early 2000s," she said. "One of the assignments is to analyze how the tonalities change over the years, given the leader and issues the country is facing. They see from a popular culture context the social, political and economic impact to the country."

Mesropova has taught the course since 2015. It recently earned the Quality Matters distinction, which requires a national peer review covering 42 rubrics in eight categories to ensure strong student learning outcomes. It is the 14th course at ISU to receive the recognition.