Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

A focus on students

Professor Paul Jessup, a former school district superintendent, transitions to teaching virtually for the School of Education summer semester, while continuing to cultivate connections with students. (Photo by Betsy Castellanos)

For School of Education Professor Paul Jessup ’78, ’83, a University of Redlands experience has always been built on the foundation of developing close faculty-student relationships and face-to-face interactions. Now, he’s trying to cultivate those connections in an online environment.

For the first time, Jessup, a former school district superintendent, is building a course on resource management for the summer term that will occur completely online. He says that his biggest challenge will be creating new relationships with students without meeting them in person—but he’s hopeful that technology will help facilitate meaningful conversations.

“It was necessary for us to respond to this health crisis while continuing to deliver a high-quality instructional program,” he says. “We recognize the urgency and also don’t lose sight of the fact that we have a job to do. Each of my colleagues have stepped up to the plate in different ways over the past few weeks to respond to the needs of students.”

Like many of his colleagues, Jessup has relied on the Academic Computing and Instructional Technology Services team to explore resources for online teaching. Fellow faculty members in the School of Education, namely Anne Blankenship-Knox, Nicol Howard, and Andrew Wall (Naslund Endowed Dean) have provided valuable support. As much a student of the technology as he is the designer of the program, he has also found students to be a wealth of information when it comes to understanding and using new tools.

Planning to execute a full term online is uncharted waters for Jessup but he looks forward to rising to the challenge. “Switching to online halfway through the term is very different than conducting an entire term online,” he says. “When we switched, my students and I had already been together for a number of weeks, so we had already established relationships. For the summer term, there are students I already know and those I haven’t met yet. Working to develop those relationships is what I’m most interested in.”  

Jessup is designing his courses on Moodle, an online learning management platform, and will provide virtual instruction via Microsoft Teams. To augment the online experience, he’s planning to deliver video content through Kaltura, facilitate discussions with Padlet, and ask for feedback from students using Survey Monkey. Prior to COVID-19, Jessup was unfamiliar with many of these platforms, but is enjoying the learning experience that comes with their adaptation.

“I’ve been trying to get up to speed as best I can in a relatively short amount of time. This experience will no doubt make me a better instructor because I’ll have a trove of tools that I’ll be able to utilize in future courses,” he says.

Looking forward, Jessup is optimistic about how these new teaching and learning opportunities will present new possibilities for delivering programs to students, especially in the University’s graduate and professional schools. While he enjoys teaching students face-to-face, he recognizes the new paths that can be forged in online degree programming. 

“There is a lot of uncertainty about what the future will look like, but we’re resilient and determined,” he says. “While these circumstances are not something I would ever hope for, the University will be better for this experience in the end.”

Learn more about studying at the University of Redlands and its School of Education.