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Q&A with Professor Eugene Korsunskiy: Turning Hands-On to Online

Apr 03, 2020   |   The Dartmouth

"It’s a tumultuous time for the world as the COVID-19 pandemic upends the 'normal' that we once knew," reports The Dartmouth. "The shift to remote learning is challenging for both educators and students as both parties navigate new technologies and teaching and learning methods. I had the chance to speak with Thayer School of Engineering professor Eugene Korsunskiy about the unique transition that he and other professors must make for classes that rely heavily on in-person, hands-on collaboration. Korsunskiy teaches ENGS 12, 'Design Thinking' and ENGS 15, 'Senior Design Challenge,' both of which have never before been taught remotely." ...

..."What we’ve done is stepped back and looked at the core skills and learning outcomes that each of our projects seeks to instill in students. Then, we worked to think about how to recreate those same outcomes without the ability to work in-person all the time," said Korsunskiy.

"One of the core skills of design thinking is brainstorming and idea generation. In person, that can happen with physical post-its and a white board. We still want students to get better at these skills, but without physical post-its, we just have to resort to things like Google Docs and Mural. We want people to get better at the act of creating physical and digital prototypes. Some tools that we use in ENGS 12 are already perfectly conducive to that. But for a project where physical prototyping is really important, like the famous roller coaster project in ENGS 12, we are going to replace it with several different projects which also have students building stuff, but we are going to make sure that all of the physical creation can happen with simple household materials. That way, we are not burdening students with these extra tasks and expenses of having to go out, find and buy these specific materials." ...

..."It’s been challenging, but I have felt very grateful and lucky to have the support network of all of my colleagues and the support network of my students. I’ve been grateful to have the support of a broader network of design educators across the country. We have weekly Zoom calls to help each other adapt our curricula to teaching online.

"Even though this has been a challenging transition, it’s one that I have so far managed to not only stay sane during, but in my best moments, embrace. While it’s true that there are some things you can do better in person, it’s also true that there are some things that you can do better online. I’m looking forward to really taking advantage of all of the things that this new format affords us. For example, teaching online might make it easier for students who are a little more shy or introverted to participate in class discussions."

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