Doctoral students develop creative solutions for virtual instruction

Instructors around the world are navigating the challenges of alternative learning formats, such as asynchronous lectures or virtual meetings. The University of Minnesota’s faculty members are no different. Additionally, many courses and labs are instructed by graduate level students – meaning those students are tasked with adapting to both learning and teaching in an alternative delivery method. Graduate students in the School of Kinesiology have stepped up to the challenge of adapting their course material and delivery methods to best meet students where they are and provide them with the same exemplary caliber of teaching the students are used to. Both Amanda Folk and Brooke Wagner have been doing just that.

Amanda Folk is a first-year kinesiology PhD student with an emphasis in behavioral aspects of physical activity in the School of Kinesiology, minoring in public health. She obtained her master’s degree in exercise physiology from Temp

le University in Philadelphia, PA. Prior to moving to Minnesota, Folk lived in Philadelphia for 10 years and calls herself “a Midwest newcomer.” Folk is one of the KIN 3001: Lifetime Health & Wellness section instructors.

When asked about the virtual transition, Folk says, “The ‘mind-blown’ emoji comes to mind! I’m so lucky to work with a great teaching team for KIN 3001. We all stepped up to the plate to make this transition as seamless as possible and still beneficial for the students. That first week was unlike any other, but after that things felt manageable. This material is important to us, so finding a way to deliver it effectively pushed us to think outside of the box, which was challenging but rewarding.”

Instead of a traditional in-person class, 75-minute video lectures are now asynchronously distributed so as to make the lecture more digestible to  students on their own time. Content spans a wide array of wellness areas, including physical, mental and emotional health.

According to Folk, “This is important during a time when life looks a lot different than it did just a few months ago. In-person, the class sparked good discussions or questions, even in the quietest of sections, and I only hope my students can move forward feeling empowered with these tools and knowledge.”

This summer, Amanda Folk will teach KIN 3001 and continue with research in the Behavioral Physical Activity Laboratory (BPAL) with Dr. Daheia Barr-Anderson.

Brooke Wagner, second-year kinesiology PhD student, with an emphasis in behavioral aspects of physical activity and a minor in public health, centers her research on obesity and physical activity barriers. She currently assists a study through the U of M’s School of Nursing, aimed towards obesity prevention in rural populations. Originally from Michigan, Wagner received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise science from Central Michigan University. 

Wagner is a research member of BPAL and section instructor of KIN 3001: Lifetime Health & Wellness. She shares that, “The transition has been quite a whirlwind, but I am so appreciative of the support and communication from our president [Joan Gabel], the director of our School [Dr. Beth Lewis], and my professors. They have all made the process more manageable and accommodating.”

The Lifetime Health & Wellness course does not include a laboratory component, so instructors like Wagner still strive to ensure content is as engaging and meaningful as possible. Fortunately, the course was previously using many online functions, making the experience easier to facilitate. However, like any new situation, remote exams and pre-recorded lectures were the largest challenges.

“We know that the transition for our students has also been a difficult one, so we decided that recording lectures would provide students with the opportunity to watch at a time that worked for them and go back as much as needed. This format seems to be working well for both the students and for us as instructors.”

Brooke Wagner will teach section three of KIN 3001: Lifetime Health & Wellness, and will continue to support BPAL and research with Dr. Barr-Anderson.

The School of Kinesiology could not be more proud of our incredible graduate students, faculty, staff, and enrolled students, and everyone’s perseverance and dedication to academic excellence. KinKudos to all!



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