As preventive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 are put in place, faculty and staff in universities and schools across the globe are exploring alternative ways to make their students’ back-to-school experiences as engaging and fulfilling as possible.

With this in mind, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) recently launched Teach Lab, a curated online website resource to help university faculty make their online/virtual classes in the fall semester appealing – and effective – for both returning students and new cohorts.

The site offers helpful content and teaching resources related to most aspects of remote/hybrid instruction, including remote teaching resources, discipline-specific tools, student engagement, self-motivation, instructional technology, and a discussion board where faculty can post queries, feedback and suggestions.

The platform was conceived, developed and launched by Patty Paine, the Director of the Liberal Arts and Sciences department at VCUarts Qatar, together with other faculty and staff from various departments – Summer Bateiha, Aissa Deebi, Christopher Fink, Diane Derr, Radha Dalal, Mohammad Suleiman, Law Alsobrook, and Mona Kassem.

Teach Lab Team

Paine noted how the idea for the site evolved as a result of the sudden transition from on-campus to online learning in March of this year.

As faculty, the notion of online education wasn’t completely new to us; but the speed with which we had to cross over from on-campus to online, was challenging.

After completing the academic year in April, Paine said they knew they would need to be a lot more prepared when university reopens after the summer break.

The faculty utilised the summer months to research and collate resources, and develop a pop-up website exclusively for this purpose, according to Paine.

She said that during the transition phase, they discovered that the amount of web-based information related to online teaching was staggering, as faculty and teachers across the world started posting their experiences online.

We knew we would have to whittle it down to what was most relevant and useful to our faculty, and applicable to our core subjects, which are art and design.

Paine said that for more than a month, their team read, sifted, and chose the information they felt would be useful from a teaching perspective. And, as the transition is as much a learning experience for them as it is for students, they felt that the site ought to be an interactive platform where a faculty member could post a query, and would receive suggestions and tips, back.

This would allow us to learn from each other, and improve and adapt our techniques as we progress across the semester.

The site – teachlab.info – is up and running, and is already being accessed by instructors searching for creative ideas and proven methods to plan their online modules for the fall semester.

For more information about VCUarts Qatar, visit qatar.vcu.edu