ONLINE INSTRUCTION A WAY OF LIFE FOR BUSINESS PROFESSOR SIMON CROOM
It was a big day for everyone at the University of San Diego.
Monday, March 23 marked a complete shift in way classes are taught across all disciplines. Teaching in the classroom, in a lab or in any other setting where faculty and students were together in person was suddenly not an option.
This was the first day that all USD classes were delivered online, with faculty stationed either at home or in their office, as their students came to class via computers from their respective homes locally, across the nation or even in other countries.
Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent measures taken by national and state government and health officials to slow the spread of the virus, USD and most other higher education institutions have shifted to online teaching.
It’s a major adjustment for many — especially in the middle of a semester and with little time to prepare — but Simon Croom, PhD is ready. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in supply chain management within USD’s School of Business, and online instruction is something he’s had tremendous experience with since the mid-‘90s. He’s been learning and honing his knowledge ever since.
“I first got involved with technical learning about 25 years ago, back when it was CD-based,” Croom said from his San Diego home, where today he’ll conduct his first online class meetings since the USD edict to shift to online teaching.
His best advice for fellow faculty members making this adjustment and preparing material?
“All of the focus needs to be on the learning. Put yourself in the shoes of the learner.”
Croom’s background includes helping the University of Warwick’s business program develop its first online textbook and, years later — when he arrived at USD to become its executive director of the Supply Chain Management Institute and academic director for the Master’s in Supply Chain Management program — he oversaw development of the latter’s distance-learning presence.
He’s one of USD’s few professors to host a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which examined sustainability in supply chain management. Croom gained additional insight into online education just a few years ago from the student perspective, when he completed a 100% online master’s degree program in psychology from the University of Liverpool, graduating with honors.
Croom says his typical approach to prepare for teaching remotely is focused on seeing it through the lens of online instruction in order to maximize effective student learning.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Croom is a valuable resource to colleagues who are adapting to all of the nuances of online teaching. He’s produced several videos on the topic that are found on his personal website, simoncroom.com, and can also be found under his name on YouTube.
He’s also posted on new pandemic teaching-focused Facebook group pages that have popped up recently. The topics he covers include the importance of engagement, motivation and curation of content; the need for structure in “bite-size chunks” for students to learn and not be overwhelmed; the value of mixing up the media presented; and tutorials on course design that stimulates student learning. Currently, there are seven videos available; collectively, they each deliver a powerful message that supports online instruction needs to facilitate a plan of action.
Asked what his own class meetings will be like this week, Croom is ready: He’s providing an online tutorial, addressing student concerns, having his project groups share their anxieties, and examining the latest supply chain news. One likely topic will be how the coronavirus is affecting business, looking at issues like panic buying, the need for responsible leadership practices, and how governments here and abroad are handling the pandemic. Croom also plans to reach out to USD supply chain management alumni who serve as mentors to current students and have them offer their perspectives.
Clearly, learning is a constant practice for all of us, one that can’t be stopped. Online teaching is here and adapting to it is the way it has to be. Simon Croom is ready. — Ryan T. Blystone