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The COVID-19 pandemic caused higher ed institutions to quickly pivot from face-to-face learning to remote learning within a matter of weeks. This was no small task for universities and colleges, as many did not have the infrastructure in place to handle such a change.

Some were more prepared for the switch due to faculty development for online teaching and instructional designers who help build and/or design online courses, while others struggled to transfer traditional in-person classes to a quality online format. Regardless of each institution’s preparation and resources, all of higher ed struggled to do the following: make traditional on campus, in-person lab courses and transition them to online labs.

With that in mind, Dean Michael Georgiopoulus of the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) created three different task forces within the college to transition their curriculum to an online format. Under the guidance of Associate Dean Dr. Manoj Chopra, the following taskforces were formed in the spring of 2020:

  • CECS Senior Design Courses Taskforce: Mark Steiner, Steven Duranceau, Mark Heinrich, Luis Rabelo, Yajie Dong, Samuel Richie
  • CECS Labs Taskforce: Hansen Mansy, Joseph Laviola II, A H M Anwar Sadmani, Gene Lee, Kausik Mukhopadhyay, Chung Yong Chan
  • CECS Innovative Remote Instruction Taskforce: Reza Abdolvand, Parag Banerjee, Richard Biehl, Celina Dozier, Marino Nader

Within a month’s time, each team needed to completely redesign the Spring 2020 lab courses for online learning. This required feedback from fellow teaching faculty members as well as an evaluation of what worked, what challenges occurred, and what challenges would arise. To do that, they needed to review similar operations at other universities as well as review available resources for virtual projects, presentations, labs, etc.

To aid not only CECS, but all courses with face-to-face labs, a UCF Virtual Labs Taskforce was assembled in the Center for Distributed Learning and the UCF Libraries. This taskforce was set up to assist in gathering potential online resources for various colleges and departments for faculty members to reference for their lab courses.

The three CECS taskforces coordinated with Dr. Wendy Howard of the Pegasus Innovation Lab, who was also a member of the UCF Virtual Labs Taskforce, to research and analyze useful ways in which to provide online labs for students so they could continue or complete their programs as needed. A final report of their findings was to be submitted by April 15, 2020, with recommendations for potential tools, reading, and materials. A delivery plan for the implementation of the CECS courses was also expected, including any potential issues or concerns that should be considered.

UCF Subject Librarian Sara Duff reviewed the potential CECS resources that were gathered and provided her own recommendations. Hansen Mansy, a member of the CECS Labs taskforce, also served as a reviewer for these resources, which were then added onto the UCF Virtual and Remote Labs CECS page.

The CECS taskforces submitted these final summary reports:

Using these final summary reports, CECS was able to develop a plan for the Summer 2020 term and prepare for future semesters of remote teaching. While not everything in these reports may have been implemented as originally imagined, it became a starting point to help faculty prepare for a rapidly approaching unknown. Although this spotlight only highlights a small part of UCF, the documents above illustrate the extraordinary effort faculty put in to prepare for the pivot to remote teaching.