Teaching through the pandemic: Barbara Kutis

6th April 2020

During this time of widespread disruption, with lives turned upside-down and inside-out, IU Southeast educators are making adjustments to deliver high-quality learning experiences for students. Assisted by the Institute for Learning and Teaching Excellence (ILTE), they are shifting their courses online, overcoming challenges and making some discoveries along the way. These are their stories.

Dr. Barbara Kutis is assistant professor of fine arts (art history) in the School of Arts and Letters. She spoke with Steven Krolak, academic information officer.

Which course are you now teaching online?

I am now teaching a special topics course, History of Video Art (FINA-A490) and the introductory art history survey course, Renaissance through Modern Art (FINA-A102) online.

What do these courses normally look like?

Both of these courses were originally offered as hybrid courses, meeting once a week. For the lower level course, students accessed lectures, readings, and took a quiz before coming to class. For the special topics course, students completed assigned readings, screened select videos, and composed content-based questions before class. For both courses, class time was dedicated to reviewing and clarifying course material – students worked in groups on assignments, participated in debates, completed connoisseurship exercises, and some days even played team jeopardy.

What are some of the challenges you face in taking your courses online?

The challenges in taking these courses online have been primarily the re-evaluating and adjusting the content to accommodate the extended spring break, and coming up with ways to create methods for student-student and student-instructor interaction that isn’t too complicated or confusing for the students.

How have you adjusted?

Originally, I had a major project due around March 15 and with the almost daily updates and changes, I was stressed and the students were stressed—so I extended the due date for the project through the end of March. I also provided students the opportunity to submit any late work without penalty through this date. I revised the Canvas home page for each course to show an updated schedule to ensure students knew what to expect for the rest of the term. And to help students stay connected, I opened up a general “What’s up with you?” discussion thread and encouraged students to share anything they wanted about their current situation and, in particular, share something in which they have found joy. Other class discussions are now taking place on Canvas and student presentations will now be recorded and posted in discussions.

How has ILTE helped you adjust?

I was fortunate to have participated in several ILTE-sponsored workshops including Quality Matters training, Online Cohort, and the Hybrid cohort, all of which served me very well in transforming my course from hybrid to online. This experience helped me focus on what the learning objectives were for each class session that was no longer being held, and find other ways to meet those goals, whether through a written assignment or a discussion thread.

How are you able to give students the same high-quality learning experience?

I am interested in cultivating students’ ability to make connections between art history and everyday life. This is something that happened in a new online assignment I created for my video art course. I designed a Canvas discussion and Instagram assignment on the topic of Ryan Trecartin’s videos. Trecartin’s videos are rooted in internet-based interactions (from early 2000s AOL-type chats to present social media ‘influencers’). Students discussed specific videos in smaller groups and then provided video stills (Trecartin’s permission was obtained) and captions to share via the @iusoutheastfinearts Instagram account. Both in the discussion thread and in their Instagram captions, students were able to draw connections to our contemporary moment of ‘social distancing.’

What have you learned about teaching online that you didn’t know before?

More than ever, I have learned that students want the course expectations to be clear and straightforward. Several students have commented that they are confused and not sure what is expected of them. Having a clear plan is essential to a successful online course.

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