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Surpassing Remote Learning with an Experiential Spaces Learning Platform at Clemson University

Clemson University CS
Clemson University CS

When COVID-19 forced colleges and universities to transition to online courses, Professor Feltus at Clemson University, South Carolina, USA, used Toolwire Spaces Learning on the Avaya Spaces platform to deliver his own digital content, converting a traditional face-to-face Bioinformatics course into an engaging, collaborative, digital course with hands-on data labs. He found that whereas before he had primarily been teaching theory, his digital program resulted in more student-to-student collaboration, more student-to-teacher interactions and, most exciting, the teaching of biotech skills in his experiential labs. On this course, Spaces Learning is producing more engaged students, improved performance, and an all-round better experience than traditional methods.
 

100+

Students accessing Bioinfomatics course

50x

Better teacher with Spaces Learning

2

University courses

Challenge

  • Pandemic forced university teachers to convert their courses online and manage needs of students.
  • Rapid conversion of a traditional face-to-face Bioinformatics course (with labs) into a unified, compelling, hands-on digital course.
  • Creation of an engaging digital teaching program when only disparate platforms available and no easy way to make them work together.
  • Ability to seamlessly deliver teaching program to one-hundred science students and single-handedly manage their interactions, labs, and grades.
  • Maintain high levels of student engagement in a post COVID hybrid learning environment.

Value Created

  • Online experiential course delivers a better experience than traditional face-to-face lecture and seminar. 
  • Increased levels of engagement and interaction through collaborative nature of Avaya Spaces platform. 
  • Depth and breadth of analytics provide actionable insights into student performance. 
  • Automated ‘nudging’ of students to catch-up with coursework gets better results than traditional methods. 
  • Professor Feltus believes he is a better teacher thanks to his digital teaching program. 

SOLUTION USED

Avaya Spaces

Toolwire is an Avaya Channel Partner and part of the Avaya Experience Builders™ ecosystem. Built on the Avaya Spaces platform, its Spaces Learning solution combines asynchronous digital learning (allowing students to view coursework at any time) with synchronous video conferencing and collaboration tools (where students are required to login and participate at a specific time) to create a virtual classroom.

When COVID-19 stay-at-home guidelines started in 2020, Professor Feltus from Clemson University had ported his course content into the Spaces Learning platform to enable the remote teaching of his student courses on Bioinformatics and Medical Bioinformatics. This meant that in addition to students having access to all coursework and seminars online, they also had access to virtual labs, simulations, video practice and collaboration.

Having taught Bioinformatics theory using the traditional lecture and seminar method for 12 years and then spending two years using Spaces Learning to deliver and augment his course, Professor Feltus has discovered that he gets better results using a workstream collaboration unified communications app built on a composable solution platform.

Using Spaces Learning, Professor Feltus and his students have been empowered to communicate more frequently and effectively – through discussion boards, student collaboration, screen-sharing, one-on-one sessions, and the experiential lab content. Instead of just remote learning theory, Professor Feltus’ students are learning how to collaborate, work in a team and are gaining high-end biotech-grade data analytic skills.

Spaces Learning is like a textbook that I use to deliver the content, which instead of being words on a page, is hands-on experiential courses. It’s a much better experience and I firmly believes using Spaces Learning has made me a better teacher 50 times over. ”

- Alex Feltus, Professor of Bioinformatics, Clemson University

Remote Learning, But Better

In 2019, Professor Feltus was looking for specific expertise to build the best remote learning experience that including experiential computational labs, so he turned to Toolwire, a learning solutions provider with a 20-year track record of delivering leading-edge products and services for experiential learning. The pandemic erupted in 2020 when students and faculty at Clemson University were put under stay-at-home guidelines. Fortunately, Professor Feltus had the solution in place that would enable him to continue teaching his Bioinformatics course upgraded with hands-on labs. Now, he teaches his course in a hybrid fashion where students can either be physically present in the classroom or enter the classroom remotely. Since most of the content is asynchronous, he focuses on open discussion and troubleshooting labs during the normal class period.

Using Spaces Learning, Professor Feltus and his students have been empowered to communicate more frequently and effectively through discussion boards, student collaboration, screen-sharing, one-on-one sessions, and the experiential lab content. 

Experience Builders

Toolwire is an Avaya channel partner and part of the Avaya Experience Builders™ global ecosystem of partners and developers who help organizations build better experiences for end-users be they employees, customers or as in this case, students and their teachers, wherever and whenever communications and collaboration happen.

Over the past two years, the needs of end-users have changed dramatically, and this ecosystem is uniquely positioned to deliver next-generation customer and employee experiences through the Avaya OneCloud™ AI-powered experience platform. Avaya Experience Builders makes it easier for organizations to build and deliver these experiences across their limited or siloed development functions by providing the right amount of co-development support each organization needs, whether that’s simply subscribing to tailored existing experiences, developing completely new experiences, or leveraging AI technology to enable end users to self-compose their experiences.

Power of 3

Professor Feltus already had the experiential bioinformatics lab material that he wanted to use as part of his online course. In addition, he needed the right technology platform to be able to deliver it to students in synchronous and asynchronous online learning environment and he found this in Toolwire’s Spaces Learning solution, based on the Avaya Spaces platform. He now uses the platform to deliver content in other disciplines through his own digital learning company, Praxis AI LLC.

Toolwire developed Spaces Learning specifically for high schools, higher education, and upskilling and reskilling in corporate enterprises. Perfect for Professor Feltus’ needs, it combines asynchronous digital learning with synchronous video conferencing and collaboration tools to create a fully integrated, engaging virtual classroom.

With Spaces Learning, I get fine-grained detail which lets me see how students are doing. Because I can see what is going on, I am better positioned to help and students can share their screens to show me exactly what they are doing.”

- Alex Feltus, Professor of Bioinformatics, Clemson University

By combining three ingredients: Professor Feltus’ own digital content, lab materials and teaching, with Avaya’s synchronous platform (Avaya Spaces™) for virtual classroom, student interactions and collaboration and Toolwire Spaces Learning for asynchronous delivery of experiential lab work, resources, assessments and grades, students gained an online course that went beyond most remote learning experiences.

“To teach programing and working with 21st century biological data sets, I run VMs through a web browser, which they access through Spaces Learning. Students do lab work pulling data from repositories across the USA and beyond,” said Professor Feltus. “Students who had no knowledge of command line computing or programing skills and who previously only used computers to access social media have been using the labs to learn Linux and, in just three months, learn modern biotech-grade development skills, which will give them great job prospects.”

working remotely
Students now engage and interact through discussion boards, logging-in when and where they want to ask a question or answer one, teaching and helping each other, collaborating, and moving forwards together.

More Than Expected

Because it is built on a composable workstream collaboration platform, Spaces Learning has empowered Professor Feltus and his students to communicate more frequently and effectively. No longer do students sit through lectures where some may get away with hiding in the back and not contributing. Thanks to Spaces Learning, they now engage and interact through discussion boards, logging-in when and where they want to ask a question or answer one. Students have started teaching and helping each other, collaborating, and moving forwards together.

“Traditionally, I would deliver all the teaching content and provide students with help. It was shocking at first to see all the student discussion on Spaces Learning but it’s great how they are really helping each other,” said Professor Feltus.

One-on-one mentoring between teacher and student is still important, and thanks to its inbuilt analytics capability, Professor Feltus benefits from actionable insights he can draw from Spaces Learning. Using this, the Professor can see who has not been logging-on very often and might need additional help – something he might have missed in a physical classroom.

“With Spaces Learning, I get fine-grained detail which lets me see how students are doing. Because I can see what is going on, I am better positioned to help and students can share their screens to show me exactly what they are doing,” says Professor Feltus.

Woman on a laptop

Traditionally, I would deliver all the teaching content and provide students with help. Now I see all the student discussion on Spaces Learning and it’s great how they are really helping each other.”

- Alex Feltus, Professor of Bioinformatics, Clemson University

No Going Back

Since Fall 2021, students and faculty have been required to physically return to the classroom but Professor Feltus will never go back to full time face-to-face teaching. His classes will now be a hybrid of Spaces Learning and face-to-face, as for him, using Spaces Learning enables a teaching style like the modern Socratic method. Because students can access and review all the content on the platform, this leads them to start thinking and coming up with ideas, which means classes are used to go over those ideas and have the discussion that needs to be had that day.

“Spaces Learning is like a textbook that I use to deliver the content, which instead of being words on a page, is hands-on experiential courses. It’s a much better experience and I firmly believes using Spaces Learning has made me a better teacher 50 times over,” says Professor Feltus. “Before using Spaces Learning, I was teaching students about theory, now I am teaching them biotech skills.”

Automated ‘nudging’ of students to catch-up with coursework gets better results than traditional methods.

About Clemson University

Ranked for the past ten years among the top 25 national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land-grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit and a competitive drive to excel.