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Thriving during COVID: An Illinois professor's story

Jul 7, 2021, 09:34 AM

How did students, faculty, and staff at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign respond to the COVID-19 lockdown? Hear from faculty member Leon Liebenberg (MechSE) in his own words.

In a short “CITL COVID Story” video, produced by CITL, Liebenberg shares how he had to move his courses online, but didn’t want to lose student engagement. So in his two theory-heavy courses, he created scaffolding mini-projects to help students understand theory-heavy content through smaller, incremental steps.

“The mini-projects … rely on guided self-study, autonomy, teamwork, creativity, exploration, inspiration, planning, organization. You name it, it’s all there,” Liebenberg says, adding the mini-projects along with documenting their work in ePortfolios, also motivated students to continue working amid the pandemic and allowed them to effectively reflect on their learning.

Liebenberg says one mini-project topic was “Design for Repurposing.”

“I challenged them to find a discarded product around their homes or apartments and to repurpose that product for COVID-19 medical use,” he says, adding students “went to town with it.”

Watch the video to hear what students repurposed and how CITL assisted Liebenberg in his efforts.

“It took a lot of effort to dream these mini-projects and align them with the syllabus,” Liebenberg says. “But I guess the reward is to see the students totally engrossed in autonomous learning, doing things of independent research, engaging with users of products and devices. empathizing with those users or patients or doctors or nurses. And believe it or not, they were having fun along the way.”

This is part of CITL's "Thriving during COVID-19" video series. Be sure to check out the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning website for videos featuring an Illinois staff member and student and to learn about the wide variety of services our CITL teams can provide you!