CSM Extends Spring Semester to May 12, Shifts Graduation Activities to May 19, 20

Faculty Get Online to Connect with Students during Weather Closings

As a result of weather-related closings during snow storms in January and February, the College of Southern Maryland has revised its spring semester, including a one-week extension to the semester.

The last day of classes will be Wednesday, May 12. Additionally, CSM’s graduation events have been rescheduled, with honors convocation on May 19, and the nurses’ recognition and spring commencement on May 20. The monthly meeting for the board of trustees is rescheduled to May 20 as well to coincide with graduation.  Also affected is the start for Minisession II, which will begin March 25.

Students and faculty members were encouraged to stay connected during the weather closures, and while the extension will allow most classes to restore instructional time, Vice President of Academic Affairs Debra Tervala said some instructors may need to adopt additional strategies to enable students to achieve the course learning outcomes and to meet required contact hours for the course. Instructors will work with students on a class-by-class basis to make adjustments as needed.

“The college appreciates the amazing job our faculty members did during the snow closures to make sure no students were left in the lurch,” Tervala said. For instance, even though the winter storms forced CSM to close its campuses the weekend of Jan. 30 and Feb. 5-11, instructors who utilized new online resources were able to take their traditional in-class settings virtual.

 As part of the college’s continuity planning and preparedness efforts during the 2009 fall semester, faculty members had Web-enhanced their face-to-face courses with the assistance from staff in CSM’s Division of Distance Learning and Faculty Development. This would enable them to have an online presence available in the event of an extended college closure, according to Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs Sue Subocz.

“The online course shells were populated with the course syllabus and faculty were trained in how to load lecture materials, conduct course discussions and post announcements to advise students about how to proceed if their classes were cancelled,” Subocz said. “Many faculty members activated these courses during the snow break.”

“Because of the timing, the weather closures occurred during a test week for many courses, so the affected faculty created tests that could be conducted online, again assisted by staff from our Division of Distance Learning and Faculty Development,” she said. “For example, our physics professor, Dick Beers, was able to post a physics exam online and Sharon Smith-Douglas was able to put her biology materials online, allowing these classes to proceed without skipping a beat.”

 Other faculty who took advantage of new tools included Associate Professor Donna Sperry who used an online environment, Elluminate, to conduct her traditional math classroom content completely online. Through this technology, a professor is able to load slides to the screen and conduct an audio lecture, and students can ask questions using audio or by typing into a chat box. Additionally, the instructor can poll the class to check understanding or be sure that everyone is following along well. “Donna got nearly 100 percent ‘attendance’ from her class,” Subocz said.

Sperry said students were positive about the experience. “One student liked it so much that I am ‘elluminating’ my math class next week while she's on travel so she can participate — by her request. I'm still having class in the classroom, we're just setting it up so that she can still participate as well,” Sperry said.

Adjunct faculty member Ann Reagan moved her physics classes entirely online, including live voice, power points and chat features. She also provided alternate video lessons, through links to publicly available online resources, and recorded an online class so students who could not access the Internet at the time of the class could access the content later. Reagan also maintained virtual office hours through the chat feature in order to make herself accessible to students.

“The online classroom definitely helped in keeping up with the credit hours considering the semester was extended. It was useful in learning the class material. I am not so great with computers and do not care for online courses but I did learn quite well … the class was conducted as though we were actually in class,” said Jennifer Seymour, a student in Reagan’s Fundamentals of Physics class. “Dr. Reagan did everything from setting up the online classes, to posting sample problems with solutions and being available for further help to try and compensate for lost time during the inclement weather.”

Subocz added that hearing such successes from students is encouraging. “We are starting to get this tool into use in science and math classes where students benefit most from seeing and hearing calculation processes take place,” she said, adding that the flexibility and accessibility of online learning help explain why distance education is the fastest growing segment of CSM’s course offerings.

For specific date changes to the spring academic calendar, students can visit www.csmd.edu/Academics/Spring2010.html. CSM’s revised dates to the semester will not affect spring break which will begin March 15 for students. Offices will close at 4:30 pm. March 16 for staff, with the college resuming classes on March 22.