Tips for Students Transitioning to an Online Learning Environment

Post by Stephanie Hawley, programming coordinator for the Vocatio Center

Social distancing, safer-at-home orders and shortages of toilet paper. This isn’t what you thought 2020 would look like, is it? You may be feeling overwhelmed, uncomfortable, sad, angry, stressed … you name it. It’s OK to feel these things. A pandemic was not in any of our plans for this year.

Though we may not be physically present with you, the faculty and staff of Union University are allied with you as we move through these uncharted waters together. We’ve compiled some tips, strategies and resources to help you successfully navigate this period of social distancing and remote learning.

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Keep track of changes

How do I access that class online again? What link do I need? When is that paper due? Put all of your key dates, big changes and important links in one place to help you stay on top of things. This might feel like a no-brainer, but if you haven’t yet compiled the course changes in one place for easy reference, go ahead and try it. Things might start feeling a whole lot more manageable.

Make a schedule and stick to it

You might find that you are suddenly operating with very little structure. While at first this might feel freeing, it might also leave you feeling more scattered and less productive. Create some structure in your day, scheduling time for your designated online class meetings and video lectures, for research papers and projects to complete by specific due dates and for exercise and rest.

Avoid multitasking

Multitasking often tricks us into thinking that we’re being more efficient, when we really might be taking longer to accomplish those tasks because our attention is divided. Try to limit your distractions and focus on one thing at a time. Realizing that you need some help with your time management skills? Consider a method like the Pomodoro Technique, or check out the other resources compiled by the Center for Academic Success for time management tips, study skills and more.

Limit screen time

It’s so important to put a limit on your screen time, especially now that everything is online. By charting out your week’s schedule and giving yourself plenty of time to virtually attend classes and to study, you’ll also find that you’re left with time to eat, rest, exercise and maybe even read a book. Find some great book recommendations on the Library’s blog.

Adapt routines

Are there ways to adapt your usual routines to your new environment? Do you need to strategize and create new routines? One of the best things you can do right now is to stick with that school schedule you were used to; get up and dressed as if you are physically going to class. Start the day ready to go.

Do you study best in a comfy chair with light music or do you need a desk, good light and no noise? Do you study best with a partner? Host a virtual study group with your classmates. Check in with your friends and share ideas.

Practice healthy rhythms

There’s a lot to think about as we adjust to these new routines and rhythms. Remember to be kind to yourself, and be kind to others. We’re all adjusting and adapting to this new period together.

Take a walk and exercise daily. If you’re living in a community under safer-at-home directives, you might find that tensions start to run a little high after being cooped up at home. Follow @uucampusrec on Instagram for some at-home workouts and nutrition tips to help you work out your stress and stay healthy.

Engage with your spiritual community. Is your church offering online services? Is there an online community group or Bible study you can join? Follow @uu_ministries and @uu_mobilization on Instagram as they help us engage spiritually through this time of social distancing, and be sure to tune in to chapel each week as it streams online.

Practice good mental health and coping techniques. There’s so much that we can’t control right now, and it can be really helpful to name those things and then limit the time we spend thinking about them. Rather than dwelling on all that we can’t control, shift your focus to what you can control, and then start doing those things. Check out Counseling Services for more helpful mental health tips and resources, and to learn more about their services during this time.

Listen to music, like the Gospel Coalition’s playlist, Songs of Comfort for Anxious Souls. This playlist is available on Spotify, Apple Music or Amazon Music, and includes some of our most beloved hymns and worship songs.

Ask for Help

One of the most important things you can do right now is ask for help. There are so many resources available to you, even from home. Check out the list of departments and services below, and let us know how we can help you!

Academic Resources: Writing Center; Library; Center for Academic Success

Student Life support services: Counseling Services; Health Services; Disability Services

5 Tips for K-12 Teachers who are Teaching Online Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Post by Dr. Eric D. Marvin, professor of education

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A few short weeks ago, you probably never envisioned that you’d now be teaching without your classroom. Sure, you may have taken an online class, but you may have never taught one! In the wake of COVID-19, many K-12 teachers, like you, have been tasked with converting face-to-face lessons into online instruction.

At the surface, it’s OK if it seems a little daunting, or novel, to say the least. After all, feelings of uncertainty during times of change are natural, but deep down, you know you’ve got this! As an educator, “adaptable” is your middle name, but even so, a few tips never hurt. In the midst of the pandemic in which you find yourself, Union University is here to offer some support. Here are five tips that can guide you during this non-traditional time of instruction as you teach your students from a distance:

1. Good instruction is good instruction, regardless of the format. The good news is that you already understand the components of effective instruction. You know how to write objectives, create and facilitate strategies, and check for understanding with various means of assessment. Similarly, you already understand that your objectives, strategies and assessments must align. This doesn’t change as you move to an online format. So, don’t let the idea of online instruction misdirect you from what you already know and do. Rather, for each objective, ask yourself: what online tools will enable me to help students achieve this objective? Don’t consume your time with a blind search for online tools and technological solutions without first considering your objectives. Doing so puts the cart before the horse. Keep your attention on the components of effective instruction. Then, find specific tools to enable you to help your students achieve your specified objectives.

2. Use free resources. As a teacher, you are already likely a king or queen of finding free resources. Most of your freebies, however, have likely focused on content and not instructional tools. One tool that may be especially helpful as you aim to provide online instruction to your students is Screencast-O-Matic. This tool allows you to record, edit and share video content with students and parents, and best of all, it’s easy to use. Keep in mind that this tool can be used to record a mini-lecture, provide assignment instructions and communicate with parents. For older students, you could even ask them to record their own screencast with this powerful tool. Finally, if you are looking for some additional content-related freebies, check out: the live cameras at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, educator resources from the National Archives and the video archive from PBS Learning Media.

3. Online learning doesn’t require students to complete assignments online. In the absence of meeting in your traditional classroom, it may be easy to assume that online learning requires student work to occur online. Nothing could be further than the truth! What needs to be online is your communication with students and their submission of assignments to you. With social distancing, students can, however, be tasked with completing assignments with tangible objects in their home, around their yard or in their neighborhood. Similarly, they can call or Facetime grandparents to learn more about their lives. What a great time for such an interview project. After all, everyone is home and perhaps in need of some conversation. Your goal is to establish the guidelines and expectations. As always, be creative and see where you can take your students during this opportunity brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Relationships remain important, even when at a distance. More than anyone else, you know that relationships matter with your students. They know you care about them and want what is best for them. Now that you have been geographically separated from your students, it’s important for students to know you are continuing to think about them and their educational needs. Panorama Education offers a free online survey tool that can help your students learn about each other and build stronger classroom relationships. Additionally, sending a brief video message (see Screencast-O-Matic above) to students can help to bridge the gap. If you want to talk with them about COVID-19, the CDC offers some guidelines here.

5. Follow the guidelines provided by your district. Due to COVID-19, it is very probable that your district has a continuity of instruction plan and specific guidance in place related to your work and the legal parameters in which you can and should function as an educator in the online world. Now is not the time to press the limits or extend beyond such boundaries. Your school administrators are concerned about the situation at hand and need your prayers, support, cooperation and collaboration.

Union University’s School of Education is praying for and thinking about you as a K-12 educator. To learn more about the School of Education and its degree offerings, please visit uu.edu/education.

Students Celebrate Arbor Day by Expanding Union Arboretum

Mark Bolyard, university professor of biology, and Michael Schiebout, associate professor of biology, went out this week with about 15 students to plant nine varieties of trees around campus to celebrate Arbor Day.

These additions bring the total trees in the Union University Arboretum to about 60. Students also helped place signs beside existing trees on campus, which will help educate visitors on what is planted here. Bolyard said he looks forward to continuing this tradition for Campus and Community Day each fall and Arbor Day each spring.

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The trees planted this week:

  1. Two Monkey Puzzle trees. These are endangered in their native range, and there are few of them planted in the state of Tennessee. They are unusual looking evergreen trees native to Chile (pictured above).
  2. Two small Catalpa trees, with plans to add a third one, which should become medium sized flowering trees.
  3. Shumard oak, which should have nice fall color.
  4. Burr oak
  5. Warei oak
  6. Black poplar
  7. Black Alder
  8. Kentucky coffee tree
  9. Basswood, which replaces a tree near the BAC that was struggling.

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Comm Arts Students Intern with MLK50 Event

Post by Austin Maddox, public relations major

I am a huge fan of several different Christian publications. Articles from websites such as Desiring God, Radical, The Gospel Coalition and the ERLC fill my news feeds from various social platforms throughout any given day.

Often, I will read an article that catches my attention, be inspired or convicted, and then share with close friends who I know will appreciate the content as well. There have even been times where we have joked about how incredible it would be to write and work for one of these publications alongside the great minds of John Piper, Kevin DeYoung or Russell Moore. What a dream that would be.

So, you can imagine how I felt when my adviser, Ashley Blair, offered me an internship with the ERLC for their MLK50 event in Memphis.

As soon as I receive the email, I freaked out. The ERLC? Are you kidding? I transferred from my community college in the fall of 2017 and had only been at Union University for a full semester at this point, and I was already getting unbelievable opportunities to serve in my desired field. It was nuts!

Of course, I accepted the offer, and on April 3-4, I woke up at 5:30 a.m., put on a tie (which felt super cool), and Corinne Olund and I headed to Memphis with nerves and excitement filling our spirits. The entire trip down we talked about what we would possibly be doing, as well as praising God for generously giving us such an amazing chance to work with a prestigious organization such as the ERLC.

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I can honestly say that those two days were probably some of the busiest of my life. As soon as we arrived, we met with Dan Darling, VP for communications for the ERLC, and talked about our life goals and why chose to study public relations. The meeting ended with a valuable offer for a recommendation whenever we needed one, and possible future job offers.

Afterwards, we worked alongside Elizabeth Bristow, press secretary for the ERLC. She showed us the ropes on her job during events like this, such as organizing the press that would come to interview the speakers, as well as keeping up with the buzz about the event on social media and writing press releases and emails. It was a very eye-opening experience.

Not only did we work hard, but we also got the opportunity to meet some of my personal role models, such as Russell Moore, Matt Chandler and John Piper. It was such a surreal experience.

After the work was done the last day, Corinne and I said our goodbyes to all of our new friends at the ERLC and headed back towards Union. The whole way home we talked about our experience, and how thankful we are for a school that values their students, knows them personally and matches them with opportunities that will further their professional careers and allow personal growth.

I can’t thank you enough, Union Communication Arts!

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Interprofessional Mega-Simulation

171111_KMW_InterdisciplinarySimulation_022Union University held its first interprofessional mega-simulation Nov. 11. Interprofessional Education (IPE) occurs when students learn about, from and with other health care providers.

This IPE learning activity was designed to allow health care professional students from the College of Pharmacy, the School of Nursing and the School of Social Work to work together to provide patient care. Additionally, students from the theater department made this simulation more life-like by serving as family members of the patient. The objective of the simulation was to allow students to demonstrate IPE competencies to practice as collaborative health care team members.

171111_KMW_InterdisciplinarySimulation_037Forty health care teams that participated in the simulation, each composed of one or two students from each of the three disciplines. As the students worked together to provide care for their patient and for family members, this simulation allowed them to identify not only their own roles and responsibilities, but also those of other team members.

During debriefing sessions after the simulation exercise, students described the activity with words such as fun, intense, stressful, challenging and confidence booster. Students said the activity increased their realization of the importance of communication and collaboration in providing patient care.

They also walked away from the activity with a greater appreciation of the other disciplines on their team. Students reported that they better understand the importance of relationships with other health care team members and learned skills that will help them in their future practice.

Post by Kim Lindsey-Goodrich, photos by Kristi Woody

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Make Yourself Make: An Art Student’s Reflection

Post by Mary Scarlett Greenway, senior art major

In January I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Europe with a great group of students – including fellow members of the art department. During our 11-day trip, we visited many great artistic and historical sites in Paris, Venice, Florence, Pisa and Rome.

As an art student seeking Art History credit, this was a dream. Getting to graduate on time by visiting practically the art capitals of the world seemed like cheating…and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. I wanted to remember every second and soak in each unique city as much as I could in such a short time.

In every city that I visited, I created a typography piece with the name of the city and held it up in front of an iconic landmark or scene (or at least, I did my best to do that – it really is hard to stop and take a picture of your journal when your leader moves at about 40 miles an hour and will leave you behind).

 

A project like this was incredibly fun and challenging – trying to capture the personality of a city in letter forms (without smudging anything on a rattling train).

In addition to my typography pieces, two other art students (Kayli Sommers and Josh Smith) and I agreed to make a conscious effort to sit down and sketch something in each city. So we did. We sketched the Arc de Triomphe, the courtyard of statues in the Louvre, Michelangelo’s statue of David in Florence, the Trevi Fountain in Rome and many others.

As an art student, the discipline of sketching things you see is often a hard one to hold yourself to – it’s at once a desire and a chore. But I cannot overstate how important and fulfilling it is to make it an instinct.

Despite all the little mistakes, I captured my experience in my journal in a way that I never could have with my camera. I remember every little side stop and place we got lost and times I almost cried (sometimes because of hunger but usually out of excitement and awe). I remember every bridge we crossed and alley we took and staircase we climbed (the stairs, the STAIRS). I remember all the shops – the little old print maker and the woman who made pigments and the aggressive leather salesmen in the streets.

Though I loved seeing every landmark and museum and cathedral, one of my favorite aspects of this trip was simply exploring the cities in our free time. My favorite city to explore was Venice by far. Never in my life have I seen such a cinematic city. Every back alley, every uneven street, every clothes line, every stretch of ivy, every hole-in-the-wall cannoli shop – they seemed so accidentally and authentically beautiful. I wanted to take all of it with me.

Hands down, I have never been on such an inspiring, exhausting, creatively stimulating trip in my life. Even if you aren’t an art student, I encourage you to draw something. Write something. Anything. Take down what you see and what you find interesting or funny or odd – no matter how trifling it seems. Don’t rely on Instagram or Facebook to keep your memories for you. Life reminds you how rare and beautiful it is when you don’t just look, but see. To my fellow art students, keep making.

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Follow Mary Scarlett on Instagram for more images of her impressive work: @mary.scarlett

 

Meet Our Students – Part 3

Union students work hard and set lofty goals. They enjoy building community, pursuing leadership roles and having fun. Here are just a few of the stellar students we would like you to meet.

Part 1 | Part 2

 


 

Austin Orr

Austin Orr – exercise science/wellness major from Jackson, Tennessee

“Pretty much every aspect of campus life I’m involved with, either in class or on the field, faith is always that overarching theme that ties everything together about Union.”

Learn more about Austin here.

 

 


 

Ryne Roper

Ryne Roper – elementary education major from Harrisburg, Illinois

“The sense of community that Union brings is very different and something I was really longing for. It’s been nothing short of remarkable.”

Read more about Ryne’s Union story here.

 

 


 

Bailey Howell

Bailey Howell – teaching English as a second language major from Jackson, Tennessee

“I look at my time at Union so far, and I think that the tight-knit community with the professors and staff and students here makes it exactly what I want. I’m the person I am today because of a lot of people at Union.”

Read more about Bailey here.

Cell Biology Project Uses Bio-Rad qPCR

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Students in the department of biology have been working throughout the summer on research projects. Many of the projects, including Benton Hurt’s, are focused on the thyroid and thyroid irregularities.

Benton is a senior cell and molecular biology major, and his project is focused specifically on how cells regulate the thyroid under different types of stress.

“We’re looking to see if there is a marked difference in RNA expression in the macrophages, which are immune cells,” Benton said. “The goal ties into broader research going on in the department to better understand hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.”

William Thierfelder, associate professor of biology, has been working on the project with Benton. He said some of the things they are studying are possible because of new equipment provided by donors.

“This machine, the Bio-Rad qPCR, is a complex piece of machinery,” he said. “But it basically allows us to measure gene expression in these cells.”

Thierfelder said the research may help find ways of treating thyroid irregularities that cause metabolism issues and other symptoms. Benton said even though the project does not sound exciting to most people, he has enjoyed the process.

“It’s nice to be able to work on something like this and later be able to see how it ties into the bigger picture,” he said. “We’re not looking for a major discovery, but every part of the research is important.”

Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody

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Meet Our Students – Part 2

Union students work hard and set lofty goals. They enjoy building community, pursuing leadership roles and having fun. Here are just a few of the stellar students we would like you to meet.

Part 1


 

Reeves Garrett

Reeves Garrett – Biblical Studies major from Brownsville, Tennessee

“I like that Union’s community as a whole is pretty organic. Students build relationships because we’re a small campus – small enough that you can know a lot of people but big enough that you can always meet someone new.”

Learn more about Reeves here.

 


 

Emily Easter

Emily Easter – conservation biology major from Hendersonville, Tennessee

“I left Union [the day that I visited], and I remember thinking, ‘How am I ever going to decide where I want to go to school if every college campus feels like this?’ And none of the other ones ever did.”

Read more of Emily’s story here.

 

 


 

Joshua Stucky

Joshua Stucky – mathematics and computer science major from Maryville, Tennessee

“Having the skills that you learn in upper level mathematics allows me to better engage in theological discussions and philosophical discussions about God’s nature.”

Read more about Joshua here.

Meet Our Students – Part 1

Union students work hard and set lofty goals. They enjoy building community, pursuing leadership roles and having fun. Here are just a few of the stellar students we would like you to meet.


 

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Daniel Roberts – accounting major from Germantown, Tennessee

“I felt as if the community at Union cared about growing me as a whole instead of just giving me a degree. I saw how much the faculty wanted to relate to me spiritually, academically and relationally. After the past three years, I can see exactly why Union was such a great decision.”

Learn more about Daniel here.

 


 

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Eugenia Nestico – public relations major from Monroe, Washington

“It wasn’t until I came during registration that the Lord truly made it clear that this was where I needed to go. I was expecting it to be somewhat different from how it was portrayed online, but to my surprise, it remained very true to all I had read about it and heard from family and friends.”

Read more of Eugenia’s story here.

 


 

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Adam Reinhard – nursing major from Martin, Tennessee

“My favorite thing about Union is the people here. I have made lifelong relationships and built some incredible friendships.”

See more about why Adam loves Union here.