As St. Mary’s University prepares for the Fall 2020 semester, the University’s leadership is working to ensure new course options enable every student to receive the full St. Mary’s University academic experience — whether students live on campus or on the other side of the world.

To help students select their best course options, below are definitions of three ways in which classes will be offered in Fall 2020, along with explanations from professors on how they will teach their option-specific course and maintain the deep sense of community at St. Mary’s.

The course schedule is available on Gateway. Registration access will be available at 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 3, via Gateway.

Online (OL)

Online courses are not taught in real time, but will follow course syllabi and deadlines provided by professors. These remote courses may include pre-recorded lectures, video uploads, class chats and individual meetings with professors. For example, a professor may load a week’s worth of content that a student will study and respond to within appropriate deadlines. The number of OL courses will be very limited.

Lori Boies, Ph.D., Instructor of Biology
General Biology for Non-Majors; General Biology for Majors II

While I will teach lectures synchronously in a virtual setting, the lab portions will be asynchronous online. For my lectures, I plan to still meet with available students during the designated course time to lay the foundation of those interactions so that students feel comfortable with both the material and being able to approach me for help. 

For the laboratory portions, students will use an online laboratory simulation platform called Labster in addition to a project. Labster has more than 140 simulations ranging from basic labs to more complex simulations. 

One project for General Biology for Majors II will utilize a smartphone app called iNaturalist. As an avid nature photographer with an innate curiosity of flora and fauna, I find this free app to be a very useful way to easily identify plants, insects and animals all through a snap of a picture.  

Virtual (V)

Students participate in virtual courses remotely and in real time on the scheduled class day and time. These classes neither meet in person nor on campus. Professors will teach in real-time live from the classroom, lab or an alternative location. Virtual courses may also include video recordings, class chats and one-on-one meetings with professors. For example, if a course is normally taught on Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays at 9:20 a.m. in person, students in a virtual course will log on at 9:20 a.m. to view a live video lecture.

Teresa Van Hoy, Ph.D., Professor of History
Foundations of Civilization; History of Texas

Each of my courses follow exactly the format of my regular, “pre-pandemic,” face-to-face classes. Tuesdays are lecture days. Thursdays are reading discussion days. 

On Tuesdays, I lecture for the first 30 to 40 minutes, then for the next 20 minutes, each student gives his or her analysis of that lecture. The last 15 to 25 minutes of class on Tuesdays are devoted to my weekly tutorial. My “Tuesday Tutorial Series” teaches the skillsets that students need to succeed at our public history and research projects. (The first tutorial teaches students how to analyze history lectures and readings.) 

Most of the projects assigned in my undergraduate courses are fun and résumé-builders. For example, students will publish a short piece of history on the official Texas State History Museum’s permanent digital exhibit. Hundreds of my students are already published authors and can embed the links to their publication in their letters of application and résumés.

Pius Adelani, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Inorganic Chemistry 
General Chemistry I

My course is classified as Virtual, but I will also record all the meetings through Zoom (a cloud-based videoconferencing platform) and upload them on Canvas (a learning-management platform) for students who elect to take the class asynchronously. 

I will schedule meetings through Zoom and students will meet during the normal school timetable. I will give reading assignments and provide PowerPoint materials. There will be group problem-solving sessions (two or three students) through breakout rooms on Zoom. 

I will conduct the laboratory section through a platform called Beyond Labz. The lab consists of 14 modules, including an orientation and safety session. In each module, I will give pre-lab assignments using Beyond Labz worksheets. Thereafter, I will give a pre-lab lecture to address students’ questions.

In-Person/Virtual (IPV)

These courses are designed to be flexible (in person or virtual). Students in these courses may opt to attend the entire semester in person or virtually. In-person classes will be much smaller than usual to practice social distancing. Students may be limited to attending in-person classes on a rotating basis, for example, every Thursday for a Tuesday-Thursday course. Students participating in person may flex to the virtual (V) format as needed to accommodate changes in their situation. 

In-Person/Virtual courses will delay the in-person component until Tuesday, Sept. 1. More information about how often a student may attend an in-person class will be available soon.

Sergio Palacios, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Management 
Innovation and Entrepreneurial Opportunities 

My goals are:

  1. to offer the same level of engagement as a face-to-face course, for both students who are in attending in person and those attending virtually
  2. to provide challenging problem-solving activities and rigorous entrepreneurial experiences that allow students to develop their entrepreneurial skills. 
A screenshot captured by Sergio Palacios, Ph.D., from one of his classes via Zoom.

Typically, we spend time crafting and validating solutions and business models to solve particular problems. I’m planning to have a rotating volunteer student in the classroom managing the Zoom chat. That way, I can quickly respond to questions in both the virtual and the face-to-face setting. 

The course is highly experiential, and we will conduct multiple team activities that challenge students to think about new solutions. One of those is a revenue model innovation, in which students prototype 10 different revenue models for a startup. This includes creating napkin sketches, a visual business model and presenting it to the class. 

Juan Ocampo, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Senior Design Project I

Senior Design Project is a transitional, two-semester course between the academic experiences and becoming a practicing engineer. 

I am developing the first half of the class (in Fall 2020) as a remote-working environment for our students, where the students will work from home on their design responsibilities and will have online tools like Microsoft Teams to discuss synchronous and asynchronous engineering challenges, accomplishments and scheduling. The students will work individually on their engineering design and there will be formal, weekly student-faculty meetings and formal, biweekly industry-University briefings in person and virtually. 

I will create videos and share reading material for the students to watch and help them through the design process.

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