Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2020

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What do Southern Nevada’s colleges have planned for fall instruction?

UNLV Move-In Day Fall Semester 2020

Christopher DeVargas

UNLV students begin to move into the dorms on campus for the fall semester, but with very specific guidelines in order to maintain social distance and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday Aug. 18, 2020.

Both UNLV and CSN plan to host about 80% of their courses online, with the remaining 20% in person. Per state requirements, the two schools will require face masks to be worn in public. Expect additional safety improvements such as social distancing stickers and protective plexiglass. Other tweaks, like staggered start times, should help prevent hallway traffic. And those who test positive for COVID are asked to report it to their school.

On-campus resources, such as UNLV’s student union, recreation and health centers, will remain open. To make sure that all students have access to needed technology, computer labs will be open at CSN.

UNLV communication studies professor Jake Thompson is head coach of the university’s nationally ranked debate team. This September, he and the debate team will trade national travel for online competitions. “We’re looking forward to it,” Thompson says. “It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s certainly better than no debates at all.”

Thompson calls student engagement the biggest challenge in online instruction. The opportunities to make eye contact or add clarifications are lost when lectures are filmed in advance. “You have to really be deliberate about how you design online classes in order to maximize the student experience,” Thompson says, noting that finding multiple ways to impart the material is crucial.

This fall, Thompson will teach an online course about presidential debates, which he has previously taught in person and online. For the online version, he breaks the lectures into smaller segments, builds in mini “reminder quizzes,” hosts virtual discussions and offers lecture transcriptions and PDFs of PowerPoint presentations. He says, “The university has been really supportive in terms of helping instructors design classes thoughtfully in ways that maximize student engagement.”

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.