Innovation NOW! LAS responds to COVID-19

CATEGORIES: Announcements

Faculty, staff and students in LAS are familiar with innovation – it’s at the very core of what we do. However, in the midst of global crisis, faculty and staff are already surpassing expectations as they work to keep the health of the ISU community and the academic experience for students at the forefront.

The challenge rings across campus and throughout the world – keep moving forward, but in a drastically different environment that changes continuously.

In LAS, many faculty members boosted their current practices to join the sprint of transitioning all courses to an online format in an incredibly compressed timeline. Others have worked hard to learn digital tools abruptly.

After the first couple of days of the online transition, success stories began to emerge about Canvas and Webex working well and engaging students.

Faculty and staff have been encouraged by LAS leadership to recognize the emotional state and varying resources of students. The circulating anecdotes of empathy and student-centered learning embody the commitment to excellence in the college. We heard encouraging news from the Department of Economics, where several courses have had great student attendance and digital performance.

We also received a great story from the Department of English. Gloria Betcher, adjunct associate professor of English, heard from an international student who was temporarily isolated in his country’s quarantine center.

After reaching out to students to check-in, Betcher received a reply from the student, who was quarantined in a government facility for 14 days, and had a strict limit on the amount of data he could access each day. Betcher immediately made a flexible plan for the student, reorganizing due dates relevant to the 14 days.

As faculty, staff and students adjust to the changes, the LAS community has responded in a positive, collaborative way. Some, like Matthew Wetstein, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, have even diffused the stress a little with some laughs. Steve Butler was featured by Iowa State today for his innovative course design.

LAS advisers have been diligently reaching out to students, and some, like Autumn Cartagena, have enacted special consistent communications to help keep students connected.

Members of LAS leadership have spent countless hours planning, revising, analyzing, and maintaining communication throughout the college. For example, LAS associate dean Amy Slagell has been a critical connection between faculty and multiple resources on campus. Charged with ensuring 100% online course transition within just a few days, Slagell worked around-the-clock to help faculty accomplish academic continuity.

“When the president announced that all courses would be online for the rest of the semester, Associate Dean Slagell upped her game,” said Arne Hallam, associate dean for LAS. “This is the kind of unselfish dedication that makes Iowa State a student-centered campus.”

From the very beginning, fellow faculty and staff have continuously offered each other support and assistance, to ensure the success of all courses. We heard about Katharine Fulton, associate teaching professor and online learning coordinator in the Department of English, who promptly reached out to faculty members in the department with the offer for assistance, concise resource details, and created a webinar to train her colleagues on teaching online.

Jacob Larsen, director of the Department of World Languages and Cultures’ Language Studies Resource Center, was in the midst of piloting and implementing new intricate classroom technology for faculty who teach languages at Iowa State. When the president directed instructors to move courses online, Larsen quickly pivoted. Anticipating the needs of faculty using the new technology in an online format, he began recording and distributing online and interactive training.

“Jacob has been quite adept at seeing things before they become a problem, and he has made himself extremely available,” said Chad Gasta, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures. “Several faculty have written to me to say how amazing he has been.”

We know this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg – we want to hear more!

Have you spotted a colleague who is doing creative, kind or innovative acts during the COVID-19 emergency? Around LAS is launching a “kudos section” which will shine a light on LAS colleagues going above and beyond on campus. This section will continue after the COVID-19 emergency ends. Please share the great things that your LAS colleagues are doing, both big and small. Submissions should be no more than 40 words and can be sent to: