Oregon State University’s switch to remote delivery of courses in spring term 2020 presented unique challenges for students and faculty alike. Some classes, however, had already laid a foundation for remote success. For students, if not for instructors, the Honors College HC 408 thesis courses, which had previously blended in-person and asynchronous content delivery online, transitioned to the new format relatively seamlessly.
This was the experience of second-year honors French and history major Grace Knutsen, who took HC 408 Stage 2: Explore & Build, taught by Kassena Hillman, an HC academic advisor, in the spring. “Professor Hillman was, in my opinion, successfully able to transition [the hybrid format] to a fully remote class,” she says. “It was clear the professor had put in a substantial effort to … provide further resources for students.”
The Honors College thesis process is split into four stages: Plan, Explore & Build, Commit and Compose & Complete. Each stage has objectives designed to help students break the daunting thesis process into manageable steps. During Stage 2, students develop thesis ideas and start thinking about how to find a thesis mentor. They can either complete the associated tasks independently or take a course to guide them. Stages 3 and 4 also allow students to choose between independent work or enrolling in a class. The Honors College advising team oversees students’ journey through this process, and advisors lead the associated courses.
During the spring, HC 408 Stage 2 met four times over Zoom to discuss themes and assignments students then explored on their own time. Assignments ranged from pre-recorded videos to exploratory projects to faculty-student mixers, where students learn about faculty research and connect with potential mentors.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to attend more faculty-student mixers, as there were no limits to the number of people who could attend these meetings,” Grace says.
Although the class experience was smooth for participants, students like Grace recognize that instructors put a great deal of effort into making sure the assignments and activities worked well in a remote format. For instance, the mixers have traditionally been in-person events with informal receptions, and HC staff had to reimagine how these would work entirely online.
The advising and thesis support team are looking to build on what they learned in the spring in fall term and beyond. Thesis completion is one of the most significant challenges in earning the honors degree, and students and staff alike recognize that the HC 408 courses are key components of the support the Honors College provides.
“These additional resources were incredibly helpful,” Grace says.