November 18, 2020
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A year ago, the phrase “Zoom fatigue” meant nothing to most of us. Now that our lives, education and jobs exist mainly at home, staying focused and engaged in a virtual environment has its challenges. 

But Fox School staff and faculty have worked tirelessly to keep students engaged in a myriad of ways. From leveraging available technology to creating open and honest lines of communication between teachers and students, innovation is at the heart of the approach from faculty. 

Teamwork makes the Zoom work 

Even before classes begin each semester, Michael L. Schirmer, assistant professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, is arming his students with tools for success. He updates his Canvas site with a host of resources to help students get familiar with the course, and Schirmer can familiarize himself with his students: their interests, backgrounds and extracurricular responsibilities.

One of Schirmer’s more intricate courses that he is now teaching fully online is Integrative Business Applications. He has curated his curriculum to ensure that students get real-world experience by competing against one another and evaluating their team members. This can help students build skills and helps Schirmer get a 360-degree view of how students are performing.

“I built into the course an evaluation process where they can rate their individual performance as a team member, as well as their peers. It affects grades. It can be hard for some students to swallow, but I explain that they will likely experience this sort of thing in the workplace. If you’re not pulling your weight, you’re probably going to get called out on it.”

Schirmer serves as faculty adviser to the Fox Online Student Association and has supported the Be Your Own Boss Bowl ® for several years as a proposal reviewer. He has over 30 years of business and industry experience in roles of progressive responsibility including engineering, high-tech manufacturing, entrepreneurship, workforce development, supplier diversity and higher education.

Breaking the ice with student engagement 

Shawn Levin, professor of Statistical Science and industry-expert, has worked in the data management field for the past 20 years. At Fox, Levin teaches Visualization: The Art of Numbers and the Psychology of Persuasion. It focuses on data visualization, storytelling and effectively communicating ideas.

At the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, Levin wanted a way to break the ice in his virtual classroom. 

“Zoom can be impersonal, and with a class size approaching 40, I wanted to get to know the class without spending our entire session on introductions,” Levin says. “As such, I tried to pick two questions that are relatively quick to answer but can provide some valuable insight into each student. Specifically, I asked the class to tell me where they call home and name one thing they love doing, but they are terrible at.” 

Rebecca Nagy, current Master of Science in Strategic Advertising and Marketing student, noted that the exercise helped her connect on a deeper level with her colleagues. “It really helped me get to know my classmates better, and it allowed me to open up,” Nagy explains. “I was immediately engaged and interested to find out what would come next.” 

“The first question was a reaction to the COVID-19 situation,” Levin says. “Given travel limitations and remote learning, I wanted them to describe where they consider home, rather than where they are currently located physically. The second question came from a fantastic newsletter by author Rob Walker from The Art of Noticing. I thought it was a great way to share vulnerability with the class in a fun way.” 

Are you a student, faculty or staff member in the Fox School with an interesting idea or experience that helps combat Zoom fatigue? Share it with us. Email anna.batt@temple.edu or message us on social media.

Be Your Own Boss BowlCanvasCOVID-19Data ManagementIntegrative Business ApplicationsMarketing and Supply Chain ManagementMaster of Science in Strategic Advertising and MarketingMichael SchirmerOnline and Digital LearningStatistical ScienceTeleworkingZoom