Campus News

Putting Students First: How Each College is Navigating Online Learning

Photo of Student on Laptop
Ella Webster, a freshman at UK, does coursework from home due to COVID-19. Pete Comparoni | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 14, 2020) — It’s been an unprecedented transition — moving every class at the University of Kentucky to a remote learning format, mostly online. 

Creating a “new normal” for an entire campus community is a daunting task. But together, faculty, staff and students have risen to the challenge — exemplifying what’s truly possible in the face of adversity.

Teaching, Learning, and Academic Innovation has offered extended instructional design and technology support. Through the Canvas Learning Management System, faculty are virtually conducting live classes and tutoring sessions, providing interactive discussion boards and assigning coursework with integrated grading capabilities.

Below you’ll learn how each college is finding creative solutions to address unique challenges. They have different approaches, but each is committed to providing a high-quality education for the more than 30,000 students who are a vital part of the UK family.

College of Arts and Sciences

The College of Arts and Sciences is at the heart of the university’s mission to educate students and create knowledge in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematical and natural sciences. That mission drives the efforts of the college as its faculty and staff bring more than 2,200 class and lab sections online. In trying times, UK Arts and Sciences remains dedicated to providing the highest level of instruction and using innovative approaches to engage students. The college’s dedicated support teams are implementing unique solutions for advising and training that will help students, faculty and staff succeed as the university moves to an entirely online spring semester.

“The liberal arts education our students live and breathe every day prepares them to be nimble problem solvers and excellent communicators — traits that will help them succeed in uncertain times such as these,” Mark Kornbluh, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “The college is working hard to make sure our students have an engaging online educational experience this semester. The skills our students, faculty and staff are using during these unprecedented times will have continued benefits for the rest of the students’ academic career and beyond.”

College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Based on the results of the Continuity of Instruction Survey, administrators in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) quickly realized that several of the college’s faculty and staff wanted training in how to use Canvas and Zoom for teaching. With the help of a dedicated team, CAFE was ready to offer virtual trainings within minutes of President Eli Capilouto announcing that UK was transitioning to online/remote instruction.

“Our college has a true ‘can do’ attitude,” Carmen Agouridis, an associate dean in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, said. “Couple that with the talents and skills of our many faculty and staff, it's amazing what we can accomplish in a short period of time and under challenging circumstances.

College of Communication and Information

The College of Communication and Information and its programs enjoy remarkable leadership at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the fields of communication, journalism, integrated strategic communication, media arts and studies, information communication technology and library and information science.

The college’s primary mission is to teach students how to communicate effectively and undertake research programs that contribute to the advancement of the Commonwealth and beyond. In the midst of the uncertainty of COVID-19, Dean Jennifer Greer applauds her faculty and staff for their innovative and quick actions to help keep these goals in place for their students. “I’m so proud of the leaders in online instruction that we have in the College of Communication and Information. We offered Zoom trainings for our colleagues and the campus on online instruction within 48 hours of President Capilouto’s announcement,” she said. “Our faculty have been creative in their own classes and generous in reaching out to help others new to online pedagogy.”

College of Education

Approximately 75% of students in the College of Education are required to complete field work. During these uncertain times, faculty members have endeavored to ensure those students stay on track. YouTube Live has been a useful tool — allowing for quick communication as Kentucky school districts suddenly closed, directly impacting many of the students in the college.

When faculty had to inform students about the innovative ways to get hours for student teaching and other field experiences, they turned to YouTube to explain the changes in a livestream. The questions were later added to an FAQ document for students with field placements. Many student teachers are continuing to work with their cooperating teachers and are completing online learning modules to add to their required field hours.

"During this time, we are being caring and responsive for students," Julian Vasquez Heilig, dean of the College of Education, said. "We want to be flexible enough to meet their needs while keeping them on track in their programs."

College of Fine Arts

The necessary response to the COVID-19 situation has impacted every aspect of the lives of the students, faculty and staff in the College of Fine Arts — requiring each one to modify teaching and artistic practice with the new reality of work from home, shelter in place and social-distancing requirements. This response hits artists and scholars especially hard, as the avoidance of human contact and connection goes against their very nature, disrupts artistic focus and creates a palpable, unsettled feeling in artists and their community. The college’s response is to apply the creativity that is inherent in all art forms and take on new approaches in teaching and learning enterprise. UK Fine Arts is basing its adaptations on the core student learning outcomes that form the foundation for classroom, studio and stage experiences. Faculty are using technology to connect with students who have relocated all over the world. Innovative use of online material is adding a depth to the learning enterprise. Best practices are being shared from other colleges and being adopted when appropriate.

“Despite the fact that we cannot be together, there is a new sense of time that has become available for reflection, inquiry, curiosity, and the resultant insight,” said UK College of Fine Arts Dean Mark Shanda. “Our resilience is being tested, but our mission continues to reflect a fundamental belief stated in our college mission that the arts are essential to the life of the individual and the community.”

College of Engineering

The College of Engineering strives to improve the lives of Kentucky industries and the communities they serve. Even in times of uncertainty, the college remains committed to training students to solve the world’s most complex, monumental engineering challenges. With that mission in mind, UK Engineering has been working diligently to move more than 300 classes, and all academic advising, online. Through their rigorous programs and enriching experiences, the college will continue to encourage collaboration and creativity.

"I’m proud to say, we were ready to launch by March 23," Rudy Buchheit, dean of the College of Engineering, said. "Under the leadership of our most experienced online instructors, and with the commitment of our entire academic and instructional staff, we’re looking forward to continuing the teaching and learning process with our students."

Gatton College of Business and Economics

The Gatton College of Business and Economics joins large corporations and small business in stepping up to develop creative solutions to some of the most complex issues. For the first time in the college's 95-year history, all classes and student services are available online. Gatton continues to prepare principled leaders for the global economy, produce influential research and support economic growth in Kentucky and beyond.

“At Gatton, our students continue to be our main priority as we adapt our blueprint for excellence,” Simon Sheather, dean of Gatton College, said. “We especially want to recognize the Class of 2020 and virtually connect our future graduates with employers through our Graham Office of Career Management.”

College of Law

These are unprecedented times, especially for the Rosenberg College of Law. The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a bright light on the critical importance of legal training. Law school instruction is heavily focused on in-person dialogue with students, and the new building has facilitated collaboration. In an effort to sustain that energy, the college is communicating with fellow administrators across the nation.

“I am witnessing the greatest display of professionalism by our students, faculty and staff as we make all of the necessary adjustments,” Mary J. Davis, interim dean of the College of Law, said. “Law school training is ultimately about helping people through their most difficult times and emphasizing the central role the law plays in maintaining our social structures. We have to count on those structures to work when they are most stressed.”

College of Social Work

Long after the pandemic subsides, the social impacts will persist. Even in the midst of chaos, the College of Social Work (CoSW) remains dedicated to ensuring the well-being of vulnerable people across the Commonwealth. To continue those efforts, the college has made additional investments in infrastructure and hardware. The goal is to provide unique training to students, faculty and staff, and to engage in a variety of different alternatives related to field education.

“In the College of Social Work, we have been operating on a reframe. Our ‘p’ word is no longer pandemic — it is possibility. We have used this as a time to really live into the possibilities associated with online learning and virtual delivery,” Jay Miller, dean of the CoSW, said. “Though certainly challenging, the positive impacts of these investments will far outlast the current situation in which we find ourselves. When this is all said and done, we will be in a position to provide improved, technologically advanced education and training.”


In the coming weeks, UKNow will continue to highlight how colleges and units across campus are transitioning to online classes in creative ways. Additionally, we will continue to share stories from students, faculty and staff over the next several weeks using #LearnAnywhereUKY, #TeachAnywhereUKY, #WorkAnywhereUKY. on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.