June 17, 2020

SIU online summer course examines coronavirus pandemic impact, response

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — With continuing and sometimes conflicting information about the coronavirus pandemic over the past several months, Kimberly Wyatt was looking for a way to better understand the data.

An online summer class within Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Health Care Management program born from the COVID-19 outbreak is giving Wyatt and other students a better understanding of how to best analyze the data.

"I hope to take away the knowledge of where to best obtain current accurate data regarding this pandemic and how to best disseminate that information to both my workforce and my community," said Wyatt, a graduate master’s student in Workforce Education and Development from Chicago.

The course, “The World Before, During and After COVID-19” is also examining the role of health care agencies, health care providers and legislators during the ongoing crisis.

Large initial class

The three-credit hour course was created in response to the worldwide pandemic and open to all majors. There are 46 students, including five graduate students who are taking the course.

Kelli D. Whittington, assistant professor and director of SIU’s new nursing program, said the course objectives are in keeping the university’s mission to ensure graduates have “the knowledge, experience, critical-thinking skills and cultural competencies they need to make a difference in our world.”

Open communication and dialogue

The class includes students from a variety of majors including pre-medicine and social work. With the additional stresses in the world, Wyatt said she appreciates Whittington’s “style of open communication and dialogue.”

The course content is available at the start of each week, and interaction throughout the week takes place via discussion boards and the video format “Flipgrid” at the student’s convenience. Assignments are due at 11:59 p.m. each Sunday, and students have all week to ask as many questions as needed.

“As a Baby Boomer, the thought of using Flipgrid at first seemed a bit modern to me. But nothing could have been further from the truth,” Wyatt said. “After being closed off from the world for the past two months being able to put a face to a name was welcoming.”

Several course objectives

Whittington said that the course objectives include:

  • Understanding the virus’ origin and worldwide impact, and comparing the impact with other pandemics.
  • Understanding the global dynamics of resource shortages, economic impact and death tolls.
  • Articulating the perspectives of field experts and understanding the impact on health care providers and a population health crisis.
  • Applying critical thinking skills to pandemic speculations and media representations.
  • Expressing developing theories about a world in recovery, the lessons learned and moving forward.

Useful information

Wyatt earned her bachelor’s degree in Workforce Education and Development from SIU Carbondale in spring 2019. She has worked in the automotive industry for more than 19 years as a quality engineer. Her goal after completing her master’s degree is to transition into a human resources portion of the business as an HR specialist or trainer.

The course will help Wyatt as decisions regarding temperature scans, daily surveys and the overall data-driven information to share with the workforce are being made.