During this global pandemic, many of us are trying to balance work life and home life. Medical librarians are experts who are a necessary component of medical research. Also, they are instructors to students, faculty, and clinicians. In this blog post, I speak with Research and Education Informationist Ayaba Logan to learn online instructional strategies and adjustments that have helped her during this time.
Jamia: As a medical librarian, what adjustments did you have to make to teach exclusively online?
Ayaba: I work as the liaison to two online programs pre-pandemic (DNP and Ph.D.-Nursing). My other liaison groups (Public Health and Nurse Anesthesia) went online generally. In a way, the transition seemed seamless because I had been working with online students and programs and had worked from home a few times a year, except that I and everyone else (students, co-workers, families, etc.) are home, too. I have a full house of people at various stages of the life course, which caused me to adjust in three ways.
First, I had to figure out the rhythm of my house—wake up, meals, activities, bedtime. And with me home, the children saw how accessible I was and wanted all the attention. Weather also affected the flow of the days (no playing outside in bad weather). Second, I had to give myself some space, time, and grace to pull back and figure out what works and what does not with all the schedules to juggle. Third, I had to be more flexible and understanding than usual. By the fall semester, I think most people I encountered were ready to rev things up a notch or two, which took another adjustment. Fall is also my heavy teaching load, so it took more planning with the family to have as-normal-as-possible classes. I also created more videos and used them as pre-work to supplement the live sessions. After flexibility and time, the next adjustment was space. I had a desk/office and needed my same work setup at home to function. And setting up my space to be comfortable, keep eyes on children, etc., required tweaking until the setup I have now. I also needed a private quieter space to teach from or give presentations or have meetings with management, which became harder to manage moving from space to space, and I decided it’s okay if you hear my family; that’s my life at home. Lastly, meals and outdoor time was the third adjustment. There is something about being at home that makes you hungry. So, I got comfortable eating and having a meeting, especially for evening meetings with working students. Generally, I tried to carry the heaviest parts of adjusting and not interfere much with what the rest of the family was doing or needed to get done, which meant staying up late, waking early, etc., to get parts of the job that needed quiet done.
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Jamia: Can you please share with us any instructional strategies that have helped you with teaching virtually?
Ayaba: A good pair of headphones!!! Headphones that allow you to be and do you. I prefer wireless headphones so that I can reach for the baby or cook while teaching/consulting. Infants and toddlers don’t care about who you are talking to or why; they want what they want now. So, if a session needed to be during the time the children are more active, I announced it at the top of the class/session. After wireless headphones, the next strategy is not teaching any new content. Teaching only that which you have done or are familiar with saves your mental capacity and reduces stress. Also, doing basic things like restarting the computer, closing most programs, communicating with the family, and having a backup place to teach if the family is not cooperating can make teaching or consulting at home smoother. This leads me to mention flexibility as another strategy—knowing that something could go wrong and having a plan or solution. This was more important at the beginning of the pandemic when folks who could work from home did, and bandwidth was being eaten up by an uptick of devices online simultaneously and all the software updates to accommodate the increase.
Know your technology—camera on/off; sound speakers or monitor or headphones, lighting, presenting, recording, etc. The software you will use to teach can also reduce the stress and anxiety of virtual teaching at home. While this seems basic, it matters more working at home. Lastly, I tend to teach solo except for big classes. Thus, having a copilot to manage the chat and/or technical troubles can be quite helpful; choose that person wisely. And while not a strategy for virtual teaching specifically, I use multicultural examples, usually related to Muslims and/or Black people, in my teaching to give additional exposure to the students to people or concepts that might be unfamiliar to them.
Ayaba Logan is a bridge-builder, an educational navigator, and research maven here to assist. She is passionate about Global Health, Health Sciences, program evaluation, formative assessment, instructional design, technology, qualitative data, data visualization, and all things research- design, implementation, analysis, dissemination. Questions make us all grow, so ask away. She joined the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Libraries January 2015 as a Research and Education Informationist. In that role, Ayaba is the liaison to Global Health, Graduate Nursing (DNP, Ph.D., DNAP) and Public Health programs, Health Service Research, and the Global Health students. In addition to her liaison duties, Ayaba consults on various research projects, including but not limited to systematic reviews, research protocols, and manuscript writing, and provides in-depth database searching. Lastly, she serves as the faculty advisor for the Muslim Student Association.