No one could have predicted the impact or outcome that would happen from the world experiencing a pandemic. At first when UW-Milwaukee extended spring break an extra week it offered time to wait and prepare for future changes. COVID-19 quickly became a serious matter that affected the course of instruction for the rest of the semester. One department, the Language Resource Center (LRC), jumped into action. They began delivering in-person workshops on utilizing Collaborate Ultra – Blackboard’s synchronous online conferencing tool. When it no longer became safe to host these training sessions in person, the LRC moved their workshops online for the two weeks of spring break so they could continue helping instructors prepare for online instruction. This workshop allowed for the continuation of a successful educational experience in a less than traditional setting.
The LRC’s workshop taught almost 200 attendees from all fields of study, at UWM as well as UWM at Waukesha, UW-LaCrosse, and UW-Stevens Point, over the three weeks it was delivered. The workshop, taught by the LRC’s director Mingyu Sun and Senior Instrumentation Specialist John Bowden, presented on topics such as: how to activate and create sessions in Collaborate Ultra, how to utilize all of the features in the program to aid in both synchronous and asynchronous instruction, tips for online instruction and time management, how to record and upload sessions for later use and viewings, how to create breakout groups within the session, and how to hold office hours online. The participants were both eager to learn and active during the sessions. Instructors were asking questions and sharing ideas, trying to help each other out and make everyone feel confident about moving to online instruction. Many have expressed how helpful the workshop was and how grateful they were that the workshop was being held right until the end of spring break. The availability and readiness of the LRC to utilize their knowledge of campus technology to help prepare hundreds of instructors to go online was a great show of the campus community coming together to support one another in this unprecedented time.