Online classes for Spring Term began this past Monday for 230 graduate students at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. The decision to move online for the entirety of the term came as a result of Washington’s state-wide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” policy and the school’s Covid-19 Planning Team.
Faculty had already begun teaching online March 16, moving a fully in-person school to a fully online learning institution in under ten days to finish out the Winter Term. Prior to this transition, the school had offered a few online courses but had yet to take any major steps toward expanding course offerings online.
“We believe this is the best way forward to reduce uncertainty and anxiety and establish a reliable, high-quality method of instruction and academic progress for students at The Seattle School through the spring,” said President J. Derek McNeil in a recent communication to the school community. “The support, collaboration, and grace for each other under stressful and uncertain circumstances is to be applauded.”
“As an institution, we are working hard to balance the wide range of needs that different students have. To strike a balance, we have encouraged all of our faculty to reduce the length of synchronous Zoom class sessions, post some learning activities online asynchronously, record and post Zoom sessions for students afterward, and maintain flexible attendance policies,” stated Misty Anne Winzenried, PhD, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning. Along with moving her own course online, Dr. Winzenried worked with Academic Services, IT, and the Library to support faculty in their move to online learning.
“Our faculty have been working incredibly hard to shift their face-to-face courses to an online format. I am proud of their creativity, courage, and commitment to provide quality instruction online even in the midst of this global pandemic. We are all learners here—faculty and staff are learning alongside students what it means to be a learning community together, even when we can’t be face to face.”
Kristen Houston, Registrar and Director of Academic Services, echoed Dr. Winzenried’s sentiments. “I am proud of the tenacity and resilience our community has shown in this pivot to remote learning in such a short period of time. Students have shown us such grace and patience in this season. I have been so impressed by the thoughtful questions and comments from students and alumni, which shows a commitment to learning together.”
Departments from across the institution came together to make online learning not only available for students, but accessible for all. The Library staff is ensuring students are able to access resources necessary for coursework, and the IT department is available via an online help desk for students in need of technical support.
“We know that access to library resources is a big concern for our students. In addition to posted reading, links to available digital versions of required books, recommended texts, and other useful resources have been added to class pages on MyCampus,” explained Cheryl Goodwin, Director of Institutional Assessment and Library Services.
Members of the Office of Students and Alumni are providing a number of opportunities for students to connect virtually, maintaining the school’s emphasis on building relationships during this period of remote learning. There is also a dedicated Online Learning Support page for students to reference as they continue to navigate the transition to gathering for classes online.
For the time being, any decision to reopen the building will be determined in the days ahead in accordance with state policy.
“During this strange season, may we be in prayer for our students, our school community, our Seattle community, and our world. May we offer grace and compassion to one another as we continue to jump with two feet into the enterprise of online learning, and may we welcome the unexpected opportunities that emerge.” Dr. J. Derek McNeil